Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Destination: Forks, Washington

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

A New Dawn

Destination: Forks, Washington

by Cara Lockwood

I don’t like road trips. And I’ll tell you why.

Sure, there’s the whole being trapped in a car for hours eating Big Macs for days thing, while your legs go numb and you start wondering if it’s possible to die of boredom.

But for me it’s more than that.

I could handle death by French fry. What I can’t handle is driving by all those small towns.

Some people love small towns. My stepdad grew up on a farm, and he loves taking those winding back roads in the country–the ones lined with cows on either side, and green hills and trees, that have blinking red lights because there’s not enough traffic for a single stoplight. Even my mom likes shopping in small towns. She says she finds good antiques there.

But any time I get away from the city and I find myself far from a major highway on one of those two-lane …

Available Until Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

 Continue Reading “Destination: Forks, Washington”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Divine Cat

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Nyx in the House of Night

The Divine Cat

by Ellen Steiber

I might as well admit my prejudice up front: I’ve been crazy about cats for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been lucky enough to live with them for most of my life. So one of the things that immediately drew me into the House of Night series was the cats. Cats everywhere, roaming freely, and always welcome in the dorms, cafeteria, stables, and even the classrooms–basically my idea of the perfect school. Then I was completely charmed by Nala, the sneezey, often grumpy, little cat who chooses Zoey for her own. P.C. and Kristin Cast clearly know and love their cats, and it’s a delight to see how they use them in these books. Not only do they create very real felines–sweet, moody, comforting, and impossible to predict or control–but they make creative use of some of the mythic and mystical lore that has been …

Available Until Monday, March 30th, 2020

 Continue Reading “The Divine Cat”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Eating in Narnia

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Through the Wardrobe

Eating in Narnia

by Diane Duane

One thing a traveler among universes quickly discovers is that, in many of them, the food’s terrible.

This is at least partly a situational problem–a matter of perception. Normally, when people from Earth pass through other fictional universes, they’re not there for a pleasure cruise. Normally there’s a quest involved, so that they usually wind up running away from something (Orcs, unfriendly armies, assassins, eldritch monsters), hiding from something (ditto), or otherwise getting too preoccupied with local events to care much about the catering. While this is entirely understandable, it’s still unfortunate. Unless a given universe’s creator is kind to you, you will never have a chance to sit down and appreciate the local cuisine. Among the less kind (or lazier) creators, you’re likely to wind up eating nothing but the fantasy version of fast food: waybread. No matter what kind of valuable life lessons you might learn from such a …

Available Until Thursday, March 26th, 2020

 Continue Reading “Eating in Narnia”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Role Models

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Flirtin' with the Monster

Role Models

by Niki Burnham

I write books about teenagers, primarily for teenagers (though teen-savvy adults read them, too). Some of the books have stylized cartoon covers, tipping off the reader that what’s on the pages is comedy. Despite that, over the years I’ve received many letters from concerned parents, questioning whether or not my books are appropriately shelved. They cite the fact that some of the characters use foul language, that one character has a gay mother, or that one character smokes (ignoring the fact that she quits) in support of their argument that my writing is a “bad influence” on teen readers. I’m often taken to task for not living up to my “responsibility” as an author to provide teenagers with good role models.

While I understand their concerns, I believe that attempting to limit teens’ reading to “good role models” is the wrong way to go about educating teens about the world in which we all live.

When sitting down to craft a story, an author’s primary responsibility …

Available Until Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

 Continue Reading “Role Models”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Through the Wardrobe

Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

by Brent Hartinger

A wild forest grew across the street from the house in the suburbs where I grew up. Technically, it was merely a “holding basin”–a patch of land that city engineers had set aside from development to hold back the floodwaters that occasionally swelled up from the little creek that ran through the neighborhood. But it was dense and untamed; much of it was swampland, which made it inaccessible to all but those with a strong sense of adventure, not to mention hip-boots.

As a boy, my friends and I spent almost every waking hour in that forest, and slowly but surely it surrendered its secrets: a broken well, a decaying shack left by homesteaders, part of an abandoned railroad track said to have been laid over an old Indian trail. Once, while walking through dense thicket in the fall, my friends and I noticed that many of the trees were suddenly …

Available Until Monday, March 23rd, 2020

 Continue Reading “Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Prince to King

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Through the Wardrobe

Prince to King

by Elizabeth E. Wein

Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen.” That’s what Aslan tells the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, as they take the four thrones at Cair Paravel in their first Narnian adventure, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. If you count pages, no king in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books actually gets more airtime than Caspian X. He plays a starring role in two books, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but in fact he’s also king of Narnia throughout The Silver Chair.

From the day Caspian is forced to run away because his uncle Miraz wants to kill him, Caspian is called “king” by his tutor, the half-Dwarf Doctor Cornelius. The rest of the book describes how Caspian manages to win his kingdom back from Miraz. So why is the book called Prince Caspian instead of King Caspian?

I …

Available Until Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

 Continue Reading “Prince to King”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Modern-Day Perceval

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Secrets of the Dragon Riders

The Modern-Day Perceval

by Joshua Pantalleresco

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

–Christopher Reeve

Heroes are the foundation of epic fantasy. I’ve enjoyed heroic tales ever since I picked up my first comic book at the age of eight. There was something larger than life about someone making a difference that stuck with me. It influenced me to read my first fantasy novel. Fantasy and comics aren’t that different at heart: Both feature great evils bent on destroying all the heroes hold dear, whether it’s something personal like their family or something larger such as their hometown or even the whole world. What fascinates me to this day is how each hero responds to crisis.

There are different kinds of heroes. Some are like Superman or King Arthur and possess all the tools to become a great hero– they have the skills, the …

Available Until Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

 Continue Reading “The Modern-Day Perceval”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Community in the Face of Tyranny

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

The Girl Who Was on Fire

Community in the Face of Tyranny

by Bree Despain

Being a tyrant is easy, really. All you have to do is take away people’s freedom. Many people in today’s society take certain liberties for granted: freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, free commerce, free press, and more simple freedoms such as travel and easy communication–all things that make a community strong and viable. But what if in one swift movement all of these liberties were taken away? That’s what the Capitol did to the districts of Panem. After the first unsuccessful rebellion of the districts against the Capitol seventy-five years ago, the Capitol retaliated by taking every measure it could to destroy the feeling of community within the districts and between the districts, controlling and isolating people in order to keep them from rebelling again.

The most literal meaning of community is “to give among each other.” Essentially, to share something amongst a group–whether that’s information (communication), goods, common goals, …

Available Until Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

 Continue Reading “Community in the Face of Tyranny”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

A New Dawn

Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?

by Ellen Steiber

As Stephenie Meyer tells us, stories of vampires have been around for centuries and have appeared in almost every culture. Although it’s hard to make definitive statements about vampires, their history, or their lore, I think it’s safe to say that vampires were not originally conceived of as romantic heroes. They were threatening and tremendously creepy, monsters who caused fear and revulsion. They were a far cry from Meyer’s Cullen family, a clan of the undead who are so dazzlingly beautiful and good that when Bella seeks to give up her own mortality to join them, this reader’s first reaction was: You go, girl! Admittedly, that’s an oversimplification. Bella’s decision is complex, and Meyer provides all sorts of interesting conflicts and potential consequences. Still, the fact that Meyer makes the vampires and their lifestyle so alluring intrigued me. I couldn’t help wondering how vampires changed from revolting parasites to …

Available Until Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

 Continue Reading “Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dear Aunt Charlotte

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

A New Dawn

Dear Aunt Charlotte

by Cassandra Clare

Dear Aunt Charlotte,

I have a feeling this is going to be a very unusual sort of letter. You see my problem isn’t a real problem; it’s fictional. I’ve always been the sort of girl who gets far too obsessed with books, and right now I’m obsessed with the Twilight series. You may have heard of it–it’s the story of Bella, a teenage girl forced to choose between two wonderful guys: her best friend Jacob and her boyfriend Edward.

Edward is romantic and wonderful and says things like, “Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night.” He even wanted to pay for her to go to college. Jacob is kind and strong and capable of total devotion. There’s something else I should mention: Edward is a vampire, and Jacob is a werewolf, so of course for a long time they hated each other, and not just because of Bella. Even …

Available Until Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

 Continue Reading “Dear Aunt Charlotte”»

Stay Updated

Our Books

  • Latest Free Essays
  • Latest Contests
  • Latest Interviews
  • Latest Excerpts