Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Dangerous Dead

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Dangerous Dead

by John Edgar Browning

Reading the House of Night series is very much akin to reading Zoey’s favorite book, Dracula (1897), for like Bram Stoker’s novel, one will find also in the House of Night’s pages the subtle mingling of folklore and reality with popular fiction. It will probably come as little surprise to readers out there to learn that, when it comes to its vampyres, the House of Night is steeped in all three. However, which parts are “fiction” and which are “reality” may come as a shock and, in some cases, may even seem implausible.

Folklore has almost as many variations on the vampire as there are vampire films (at least 700 of which, or more, belong to Dracula or his semblance alone), and more often than not the two are confused for one another.

The House of Night series, and the various associations it conjures up, is no exception to this. However, the series’ treatment of the vampire mythology is surprisingly faithful to the folklore, …

Available Until Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

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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, November 14th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Naturally Unnatural

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Mind-Rain

Naturally Unnatural

by Will Shetterly

Certainly nothing is unnatural that is not physically impossible.

–Richard Brinsley Sheridan

1. What are we?

In the Academy of Athens, Plato gave a famous definition of a human: “A featherless biped.” Everyone admired that until Diogenes of Sinope tossed a plucked chicken on the ground and said, “See, Plato’s human!” Plato quickly changed his definition to “A featherless biped–with broad nails.”

For centuries, that answer was as good as any. We had no choice in the matter. We were what nature made us: a mash-up of genetic material provided by a male and a female parent.

But what would we be if we could ignore nature and give ourselves feathers, four legs, or claws? Would we still be human? If what nature gives us is natural, would we become unnatural by changing ourselves? Would we become so different that we should be called nonhuman, ex-human, or formerly human? Might changing ourselves make …

Available Until Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

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

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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, October 31st, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A Glossary of Ancient Greek Myth

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Demigods and Monsters

A Glossary of Ancient Greek Myth

by Nigel Rodgers

A

Achilles

Son of Peleus and the nymph Thetis. When Achilles was born, Thetis held him by one foot and dipped him into the River Styx in an attempt to make him immortal. She almost succeeded; only the spot on his heel by which she held him while he was immersed remained a point of vulnerability–the origin of the term Achilles’ heel, meaning a weakness. Aside from the spot on his heel, Achilles was completely invincible. When he was older, his father sent him to be raised by Chiron the Centaur on Mount Pelion. He is most famous for being a great warrior and for his participation in the Trojan War. He fought on the side of the Greeks under their leader, Agamemnon, after his best friend, Patroclus, was killed. He slew Prince Hector in battle before he himself was killed by an arrow Paris, the Trojan prince, shot at his heel.

(See …

Available Until Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reading by Flashlight

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Navigating the Golden Compass

Reading by Flashlight

by Kay Kenyon

Hey, what’s with this Philip Pullman hijacking fantastic literature and taking a gazillion readers along for the ride? Whether among young readers or adults, Pullman’s trilogy is sending people into a buying– and reading–frenzy. Proclaimed by some reviewers as an adult read worthy of our best literature, His Dark Materials is nothing less than a smashing commercial and artistic success.

Literary acclaim, best seller lists . . . all for a young adult story filled with magic and strange new worlds. It isn’t fair! complain my fellow science fiction and fantasy writers. We do all this stuff, and languish in what amounts to a literary ghetto. What is so different about this fantasy story?

Based on first impressions I am tempted to say, not much. We writers of speculative fiction have covered Pullman’s fictional ground before, and often as well.

I can hear the protests: Aren’t you forgetting Pullman’s lucid prose, the originality …

Available Until Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Politics of Mockingjay

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

The Politics of Mockingjay

by Sarah Darer Littman

Maybe it’s because of my political background, but when I read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series the focus was never about Team Gale or Team Peeta the way it was for so many readers; the romance was a subplot. I majored in political science in college, and when I’m not writing books for teens, I’m a columnist for Hearst newspapers and a writer and blogger for various political websites, including CT News Junkie and My Left Nutmeg. To my mind, the Hunger Games trilogy was always more about “The System”–a political system that would not just allow but require children to fight to the death in televised games.

According to an interview in the School Library Journal, Collins said she drew her inspiration for the Hunger Games from imagining a cross between the war in Iraq and reality TV, after flipping through the channels one night and seeing the juxtaposition between the coverage of the war and reality TV programming. While I’ve …

Available Until Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Challenging the Gods

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Mind-Rain

Challenging the Gods

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

I should have known the Prettiverse wouldn’t be pretty.

Any book that starts out by comparing the sky to cat vomit is probably not going to be full of unicorns and rainbows. Not unless the unicorns are surgically engineered special police and the rainbows are really the artificial light reflecting off the metaphorical fog of your nanotech-induced complacency.

Strange as it seems, I mean it as a compliment when I say that the Uglies series scared and depressed me. This type of book, which eggheads and English teachers call “dystopian fiction,” makes you think about what’s wrong with the world. It’s built on things that are messed up in our society right now, and shows very clearly where we could be headed if things don’t change. That can be a real downer.

Fortunately, the Prettiverse has two things: hoverboards (which are, let’s face it, just plain cool), and Tally Youngblood, who uses her …

Available Until Friday, October 5th, 2018

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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 Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

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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, September 26th, 2018

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