Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Ladies of the Night, Unite!

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Ladies of the Night, Unite!

by Jon Skovron

The Vampire Diaries is a perfect example of an age-old battle between opposites. Not Good and Evil, of course. Neither the book nor the show is so didactic as to portray any character as purely Good or purely Evil. No, I’m talking about that other age-old conflict: Boy Vampires vs. Girl Vampires. The conflict began a long time ago, in a place kind of far away . . .

The year was 1816. Many called it the “Year without a Summer” because of a series of strange weather events in northern Europe that extended the rains of spring straight into fall. The earnest young English physician John William Polidori found himself in a Gothic villa near Geneva with his good friend and frequent traveling companion, the poet Lord Byron, and guests Claire Clairmont, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Since they were forced to stay indoors by the …

Available Until Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The War of Light and Darkness

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Through the Wardrobe

The War of Light and Darkness

by Herbie Brennan

The Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-book tale of good versus evil–the age-old war of Light and Darkness. It’s a story you’ll also find in the Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, and many other fantasy novels–a heady brew of myth and magic, brave heroes, dark villains, mystic artifacts, and occult powers.

But that’s all just fiction–right? You’d never get black magicians, mystic artifacts, and occult powers in the real world, would you?

Well . . .

The author of the Narnia chronicles, Clive Staples Lewis, fought in the First World War. He joined the British Army in 1917, and was commissioned an officer in the third Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. He fought at the Somme and was subsequently wounded during the Battle of Arras.

He was forty years old when the Second World War broke out, a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. Just four years after the war ended, …

Available Until Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Crime of Fashion

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Crime of Fashion

by Terri Clark

Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and
they remember the woman.

–Coco Chanel

By its very definition, “fashion statement” means our clothes speak for us. When a person thinks of that phrase, they are most likely to picture someone whose conscientious choice of attire stands out and evokes a strong response. Right now, Lady Gaga is the poster child for making provocative fashion statements. Who else would don a raw meat dress designed by Franc Fernandez and say it was in protest of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy? Yet, if she yanked on a pair of tattered sweats and a Hanes t-shirt among friends in the privacy of her own home, that too would articulate something about her. Because even when we’re not trying to draw focus to ourselves, what we choose to wear still makes a statement.

Our clothing tells other people who we are, whether we value comfort over frivolity, brand names over money-saving …

Available Until Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Greek Hero–New and Improved!

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

The Greek Hero–New and Improved!

by Hilari Bell

Essay excerpt to come!

Available Until Monday, July 8th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

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A New Dawn

Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Romeo and Juliet nearly killed my GPA in high school. This is difficult for me to admit, being not only a literature geek, but a theater major. Shakespeare wrote some of the world’s most beautiful verse for those tragic lovers from Verona, but it took me a long time to understand why the play is a classic. What does this have to do with Stephenie Meyer’s compulsively readable, engrossingly gothic tale of Bella Swan and the vampire she loves? Well, Twilight is a little like Romeo and Juliet, except one of the pair is already dead. Meyer nods to this by opening New Moon with a quote from the play. Within the first chapter, Bella and Edward are discussing the similarities (sort of) between their relationship and that of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, and I’m patting myself on the back for my masterful insight. It’s the parallels to Shakespeare’s play that …

Available Until Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Great Debate

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A New Dawn

The Great Debate

by Rachel Caine

DEBATE HOST: Welcome to the most popular reality show on high-numbered cable television: The Great Debate! We have two teams of very learned, articulate scholars with us to debate an exciting and timely topic: Resolved: Vampire-themed fiction represents thinly veiled sexuality and violence. Therefore, vampire fiction is not suitable for young adults, and in particular Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, which has brought vampire-themed young adult fiction to the forefront, is not appropriate for young adult readers.

Boos and hisses from the audience.

DEBATE HOST: With us today, arguing that vampire fiction is unsuitable for young adults, are Professor Nelda Harlen-Price, head of the English Literature department at the Skokie Academy for the Arts, and Professor Hans Scheller of the University of Classical Education, author of the monograph On The Sexual Content and Repressive Nature of Folklore-Based Fictional Adaptations.

Reluctant applause from studio audience.

HARLEN-PRICE: Happy to be here.

SCHELLER: Ja.

DEBATE HOST: Advocating the right of …

Available Until Monday, July 1st, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: She Is Goddess

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Nyx in the House of Night

She Is Goddess

by Yasmine Galenorn

She is Goddess. She is the moon overhead, full and ripe in the sky. She is
the ground under our feet, pungent and ripe with promise. She is the huntress
in the woods, fleet of foot, and the washerwoman at the stream, washing
bloody garments predicting deaths to come. She wears a triple face: Maiden,
Mother, Crone. She is gigantic–the 24,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf,
and she is lithe–Eos, the goddess of dawn. She is Kali, she is Artemis and
Athena and the Morrigan. As Gaia, the planet, she provides the sustenance
that keeps us alive. As Hel, she walks us into the Underworld at our death.
Eternal and cyclic, she is Goddess, the primal source of life and death.

Throughout history, the divine feminine has been worshiped and loved,
reviled and vilified, adored and feared. She has been exalted, and …

Available Until Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Kristina Speaks Up

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Flirtin' with the Monster

Kristina Speaks Up

by "Kristina"

I’m not exactly sure where to begin, but to describe where my heart was at the beginning and how it got lost along the way. Any way you look at things, I’d like it to be known that I’ve always wanted to do the right thing. Even when it came right down to destruction and carnage in my wake, I looked upon myself in a kind of helpless and detached way: a flailing passenger on a tumultuous runaway train destined to destroy everything in my path, knowing my own demise will be eminent upon encountering the slightest obstacle yet unable still to do anything but watch on autopilot and hang on for dear life.

I don’t blame anyone for my actions, or try to blame a bad childhood for my faults–in all actuality, I had a very privileged upbringing. I didn’t really see it as such, being your typical teenager, but …

Available Until Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: O, To Be in Oxford

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Navigating the Golden Compass

O, To Be in Oxford

by Richard Harland

I want to ride through the night on an armored polar bear! I want to cut holes in the air and step through into other worlds! I want to fly in an airship over the Arctic snow! But most of all, I want to live like Lyra as a kid in her alternative Oxford!

What a life! Running on the rooftops, spitting plumstones onto the heads of passersby, engaging in alliances and wars, pelting the enemy with clods of earth! Or exploring underground cellars, drinking forbidden wine! Best of all–no parents!

Let’s face it. What’s the worst thing about being a kid in this non-alternative present-day reality of ours? It’s the way parents and adults want to involve themselves in your life, right? It’s the surveillance. Loving surveillance, caring surveillance–but still surveillance. Someone is always worrying themselves sick over you. If it’s not parents, it’s all the other adults. Medical specialists …

Available Until Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: My Boyfriend Sparkles

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A New Dawn

My Boyfriend Sparkles

by Anne Ursu

Each night I ask the stars above Why must I be a teenager in love?

–Dion and the Belmonts

Bella Swan thinks of her relationship with the vampire Edward Cullen in great sweeping terms–Romeo and Juliet, Catherine and Heathcliff. And their story certainly has echoes of those iconic lovers; they are star-crossed, ardent, destined for each other, eternal, doomed. But as extraordinary as their relationship is, it is also quite ordinary, and familiar. The overwhelming intensity of their romance makes sense because Bella and Edward are teenagers, and never is the rhetoric of star-crossed love and eternity so plausible as at that time in life. And while Edward isn’t exactly human, their relationship is very much so, and its course closely follows familiar tropes of teen love, for better or for worse. Bella Swan’s relationship with Edward Cullen is immortal, dangerous, forbidden, impassioned, allconsuming–in short, exactly like first love.

I Was …

Available Until Monday, June 17th, 2019

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