Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reimagining "Magic City"

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

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

 Continue Reading “Reimagining "Magic City"”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Good Girl Always Goes for the Bad Boy

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

A New Dawn

The Good Girl Always Goes for the Bad Boy

by Megan McCafferty

The Twilight series has been on my should-read list for some time. I was drawn to Twilight in the bookstore shortly after it came out. The striking crimson-on-black cover art–pale hands held out in offering, tempting readers with an Edenic apple–bore no resemblance to the glittery pink books surrounding it on the shelves.

Then I read the plot synopsis:

About three things I was absolutely positive:

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him–and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be–that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Yikes. As the author of books for teens, it’s my job to familiarize myself with the most popular and best-reviewed books for young adults. But I had no interest in reading a gothic love story about teenage vampires. Generally speaking, I like my teen entertainment to be based on reality. …

Available Until Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

 Continue Reading “The Good Girl Always Goes for the Bad Boy”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Gods Among Us

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

Demigods and Monsters

The Gods Among Us

by Elizabeth M. Rees

What You Can’t See Might Harm You

Living in New York City, just under two miles from what became Ground Zero, I witnessed the events of 9/11 all too close to home. It was a scene to gladden the war-mongering heart of Ares, the Greek god of war. The smoky, fiery image of the Twin Towers was surely one lifted straight from Hades’ wildest dreams.

Although I am old enough to know Superman is make-believe and that James Bond is just a character in books and film, I actually found myself wondering, “Where are they?” Why didn’t Superman soar onto the scene and snatch a plane in each fist a second before they struck? Why had James Bond’s trademark derring-do failed when his valiant deeds were most crucial?

What a foolish part of me expected was larger-than-life action taken by one of our own pop culture demigods (Clark Kent) or heroes (Bond). What …

Available Until Monday, July 16th, 2018

 Continue Reading “The Gods Among Us”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Beauty Smackdown

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

Mind-Rain

Beauty Smackdown

by Janette Rallison

I belong to a book club. We generally spend fifteen minutes talking about the month’s book and the rest of the two hours talking about our kids and husbands. (Plus we consume large amounts of chocolate. This is why I go.) When we read Uglies, we spent the entire time talking not only about the book, but about the series as well. Like many of the women in the book club, I couldn’t stop at just one book. I had to find out what happened to Tally, David, Shay, and Zane. I also had to see who ended up pretty and whether or not it made them happy.

Science fiction authors are known for taking aspects of our society and magnifying them in their books, giving readers a chance to see what would happen if our present attitudes and practices were taken to the extreme. And as the titles suggest, one …

Available Until Friday, July 13th, 2018

 Continue Reading “Beauty Smackdown”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Sharper Than a Seraph Blade

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

Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Sharper Than a Seraph Blade

by Diana Peterfreund

The Shadowhunters of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series have a variety of weapons at their disposal, and most possess particular favorites. Isabelle Lightwood is fond of her golden electrum whip, Luke Garroway (when not wolfy) is very attached to the kindjal blade Valentine gave him to off himself with, and Clary Fray probably gets the most mileage out of her Angel-given gift of rune making–that is, when she can manage to hang on to her stele. (Honestly, she drops that thing more often than Stephanie Plum forgets her gun.)

But Jace Wayland Morgenstern Herondale Lightwood–who, thanks to his angel blood, is one of the most powerful of all Shadowhunters, and who has more names for seraph blades than can be found in your average baby-naming book–has one weapon that trumps them all.

Humor.

Seraph blades and daggers and steles are all well and good (and for Jace, they’re very good indeed), but the …

Available Until Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

 Continue Reading “Sharper Than a Seraph Blade”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Someone to Watch Over Me

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

The Girl Who Was on Fire

Someone to Watch Over Me

by Lili Wilkinson

It must be very fragile, if a handful of berries can bring it down.
-Katniss Everdeen, Catching Fire
A few hundred years ago, if you did something wrong you were physically punished–beaten or even hanged, usually in front of a crowd. The whole point of this was to warn the people watching–if you do something bad, this could happen to you. Except it didn’t quite work. Because if you’re watching a starving thirteen-year-old girl being flogged for stealing a loaf of bread, you’re not thinking about what a terrible person she is, and how you’d better not ever do anything like that. You’re thinking, That poor girl. She only wanted something to eat. And the people who are doing the punishing don’t want you to feel sorry for her.

So in the nineteenth century things changed. Instead of physically hurting criminals, we started to put them in prison. And the thing about prison is, you’re always being …

Available Until Friday, July 6th, 2018

 Continue Reading “Someone to Watch Over Me”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: In Which Our Intrepid Heroines Discuss the Merits of the Bad Boy Versus the Reformed Bad Boy

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

A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

In Which Our Intrepid Heroines Discuss the Merits of the Bad Boy Versus the Reformed Bad Boy

by Alyxandra Harvey

Night trembled on bat wings over the treetops.

“Well, that’s just awful.” Lizzie scratched it out so ferociously the paper pockmarked. The candle next to her elbow rattled. “It’s about vampires, of course it’s got bats and night.”

She was still sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table and scowling at the offending description when Cat burst into Lizzie’s parents’ sunroom. “I know! I know! I’m late,” she said, sounding out of breath, as always. “I got this text from Edw–oooh, hey, is that Vampire Diaries?” She plopped onto a chair facing the television, entranced. “Damon totally takes his shirt off in this episode.”

“You’re late,” Lizzie said.

“Shh. Damon.”

“Please, Stefan’s cuter.”

Cat looked away for barely a second, one eyebrow raised in patent disbelief. “Is not.”

Lizzie pointed to the screen. “Look at that half smile. Those eyes. You can just tell he’s deep. …

Available Until Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

 Continue Reading “In Which Our Intrepid Heroines Discuss the Merits of the Bad Boy Versus the Reformed Bad Boy”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?

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

Demigods and Monsters

Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?

by Ellen Steiber

Could there be a more bizarre choice for director of Camp Half-Blood than Dionysus?

Rick Riordan has a gift for playing with the Greek myths. He delights in taking the gods and their stories and giving them just enough of a twist to make them completely believable in our world while still retaining the essence of the ancient beliefs. His Dionysus, more safely referred to as Mr. D (names are, after all, powerfulthings), takes the image of the Greek god of wine and revelry and twists it into a believable contemporary portrait: If you spent most of your time drinking and partying like Mr. D, there’s a good chance that by the time you reached middle age, you too would be overweight, badly dressed, and not care a fig about anything except when you could get your next drink. You certainly wouldn’t be thrilled by having a bunch of “brats” foisted …

Available Until Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

 Continue Reading “Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Bonnie Bennett: A New Kind of Best Friend

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

A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Bonnie Bennett: A New Kind of Best Friend

by Bree Despain

As an author of teen fiction, there are many things I
absolutely love about my job: meeting new people,
spending all day creating fictional boys for my readers to
crush on, and developing whole new mythologies inside my
head. But I have to say that one of the absolute best parts of
my job is that watching shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars,
and Friday Night Lights is actually
considered work. After a long day of writing and mommyhood
there’s nothing better than cuddling up with my hubby
and a bowl of popcorn and firing up the TiVo.

Some may call this vegging.
I call it research.

You see, as I’m watching, I’m also taking mental notes on
the choices the writers and directors have made concerning
plot, dialogue, pacing, and the …

Available Until Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

 Continue Reading “Bonnie Bennett: A New Kind of Best Friend”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reading the Right Books

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

Through the Wardrobe

Reading the Right Books

by Ned Vizzini

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was always my favorite Narnia book, and the wonder of being a kid is that you don’t have to question why things are your favorites. That’s for psychoanalysis later on. If you had come along and asked me why Dawn Treader beat out The Silver Chair, which has some really creepy parts, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I always got annoyed by because, in terms of the chronological events of the book, it should have been called The Wardrobe, the Witch and the Lion), I would have said that it was because it had cool monsters and lots of amazing islands and various killer enchantments that were really awesome.

But when you grow up you start to understand why you liked these things, and it can be quite sobering. In some cases the only explanation is that you were retarded (see …

Available Until Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

 Continue Reading “Reading the Right Books”»

Stay Updated

Our Books

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