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, September 26th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Why So Hungry for the Hunger Games?

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Why So Hungry for the Hunger Games?

by Sarah Rees Brennan

As you can tell from all the atrocious puns in the title, this essay will be studying the elements in the Hunger Games trilogy that inspire its tremendous popularity. It’s fascinating to analyze the mixture of elements that has caught readers’ imaginations around the world. What is so alluring about the Hunger Games’ particular mixture of adventure, romance, and philosophy? Many of the elements present in the series are familiar, so how does Suzanne Collins make it all seem fresh and compelling?

For a long time I avoided the Hunger Games because, well, I’d seen Battle Royale, thank you very much. (Battle Royale is a Japanese movie, based on the book of the same name by Koushun Takami, about high school students who are chosen by lottery to kill each other under new legislation introduced by a futuristic government.) I finally buckled under the weight of hearing everybody’s enthusiastic recommendations for six months, and then I read the Hunger Games voraciously …

Available Until Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reality Hunger

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Reality Hunger

by Ned Vizzini

When I was nineteen, slightly older than Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (and worse at archery), I was invited to leave my home and journey to a faraway land to prepare for a new chapter in my life. The faraway land was not the Capitol but Minneapolis, Minnesota. The new chapter was not a pubescent deathmatch–I had just been through that in high school–but a professional arena where every day contestants young and old are ground up and forgotten, driven to alcoholism, and sent back to graduate school. I was going to be a published author. My publisher had decided that I needed “media training.”

I arrived at MSP Airport with scant television experience. In grade school I had been on a Nickelodeon “Big Help” public service ad raking leaves and was given 0.2 seconds of screen time; as an infant I had failed out of auditions for a diaper commercial. (I could still end up in an adult diaper …

Available Until Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dancing with the Wolves

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A New Dawn

Dancing with the Wolves

by Linda Gerber

The wolf’s eyes were dark, nearly black. It gazed at me for a fraction of a second, the deep eyes seeming too intelligent for a wild animal. As it stared at me, I suddenly thought of Jacob….

–NEW MOON

I might as well confess up front–I’m one of those people: a diehard Jacob fan. Not that I don’t love Edward, mind you, but there’s something accessible and familiar about Jacob that Edward, in all his stone-cold beauty, can’t touch. Jacob doesn’t have Edward’s years of experience or polish. He’s na¯ve, he’s rash, and he’s delightfully primal. And when we learn the boy is part wolf, he’s irresistible. It’s only natural, that attraction; we humans have a certain fascination with canis lupus that can’t be denied. Look at all the wolves that pop up in our myths and legends throughout the millennia. We can’t get enough of them. As Daniel Wood …

Available Until Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

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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 Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Thing About Elves Is...

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

The Thing About Elves Is...

by Gail Sidonie Sobat

Well, they’re a slippery lot. Hard to pin down. The wee folk. The little people. Fairies. Or is that faeries? Or brownies? Or pixies? Pan or Puck? Sylphs or dryads or nymphs? Goblins or hobgoblins or gremlins or gnomes? Leprechauns or imps or sprites?

Enough to set the mind reeling!

So to begin at the beginning, sort of: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, elf is an Old English word (sometimes spelled ylf/ielf/aelf/alf) which denotes “a class of supernatural beings, believed to be of dwarfish form, and to possess magical powers, which they exercised either to the help or the hurt of mankind. Now a mere synonym of fairy. Sometimes distinguished from fairies a) as a subject species; b) as more malignant.”

But how did these creatures of the stuffy Oxford morph into the vibrant Arya and Islanzad­ and Oromis and those other elves who people (er . . . elfize?) Paolini’s Inheritance …

Available Until Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Bent, Shattered, and Mended

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Bent, Shattered, and Mended

by Blythe Woolston

The Hunger Games trilogy gave me bad dreams. Actually, the books provided images, feelings, and ideas that my brain used as ingredients to brew up nightmares about children’s bones floating in a river of red dust and creepy lizard mutts lurking in the storm drain outside my front door. My brain is good at that sort of thing. But dreaming wasn’t the only business my brain was doing while I slept. It was also forming memories. That is why I remember Greasy Sae’s concoction of mouse meat and pig entrails, Prim’s untucked shirt, and, of course, Katniss, the girl on fire.

You probably remember why Katniss called Prim “little duck.” It’s a detail that’s important to the story. But–unless you share my personal fascination with mice and nasty-bad soup–Sae’s recipe isn’t stashed in long-term memory. That’s because every individual has a unique brain in charge of selecting information and forming memories. Depending on our previous experiences, we notice some things and ignore others. In the …

Available Until Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Importance of Being Between

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Flirtin' with the Monster

The Importance of Being Between

by Micol Ostow

In-Between Places

If you’ve ever had any occasion to visit my official author website, you might know that it describes me as “half Puerto Rican, half Jewish, half student, half writer, half chocolate, half peanut butter.” I’m here to tell you that it’s all true, every last word. I am a mutt, through and through. And darn proud of it.

Full disclosure, though: I haven’t always been as comfortable with my mixed-breed status as I am these days. Anyone grappling with a diverse ethnic or cultural background (which, I would venture to say, is most of us) knows from the experience of constantly wanting to check the “other” box on the questionnaire of Life, probably all too well. As if it were that simple, defining ourselves by the things we are not (in my case: patient, blonde, and mathematically inclined, just for starters). As if the very act of labeling ourselves–carefully, definitively, …

Available Until Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Otherworld Is Greek to Me

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Otherworld Is Greek to Me

by Trinity Faegen

From character names to story elements, P.C. and Kristin Casts’ House of Night series is a treasure trove of allusions to Greek mythology. Nyx’s origins are in Greek myth–she appears in Hesiod’s Theogony, Homer’s Illiad, and other ancient Greek texts. Aphrodite takes her name from the Greek goddess. But the references to Greek myth that fascinate me most are those related to Nyx’s Otherworld. The Casts have taken the ancient Greek’s Underworld and added their own imaginative twist, creating a colorful, intriguing new answer to the eternal question, “Where do we go after we die?” Just like the Underworld in Greek mythology, selective visits to the Otherworld by the living are allowed. Also just like the Underworld, some visitors can never leave. And while the two aren’t identical, there are enough similarities that it’s interesting to compare and contrast.

The uncertainty of the afterlife is universal, a …

Available Until Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reimagining "Magic City"

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Nyx in the House of Night

Reimagining "Magic City"

by Amy H. Sturgis

My own journey to the House of Night began with an email from my little sister, Margret. She explained that I should read–no, had to read–the novels by P.C. and Kristin Cast. While I appreciated her recommendation, I wasn’t exactly in the market for new titles to enjoy. My “to read” stack already was well out of hand.

Then Margret changed my mind with one simple sentence: “The books are set in Tulsa.”

The next thing I knew, I was reading the opening scene of the first book, in which a vampyre Tracker Marks Zoey Montgomery in the hall of her school and my alma mater, South Intermediate High School, in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow. I was hooked.

Of course, familiarity has its own charm. Like Zoey, I’ve shopped at Utica Square, trusted meteorologist Travis Meyer for the day’s weather forecast, and even taken a science class from Mr. Wise, and this helped me to feel an immediate identification with the young …

Available Until Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

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