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 Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: The Girl Who Was on Fire

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Introduction: The Girl Who Was on Fire

by Leah Wilson

You could call the Hunger Games a series that is–like its heroine–on fire. But its popularity, in itself, is nothing new. We live in an era of blockbuster young adult book series: Harry Potter, Twilight, now the Hunger Games. It’s more unusual these days for there not to be a YA series sweeping the nation.

All of these series have certain things in common: compelling characters; complex worlds you want to spend time exploring; a focus on family and community. But the Hunger Games is, by far, the darkest of the three. In Twilight, love conquers all; Bella ends the series bound eternally to Edward and mother to Renesmee, without having to give up her human family or Jacob in the process. In Harry Potter, though there is loss, the world is returned to familiar stability after Voldemort’s defeat, and before we leave them, we see all of the main characters happily married, raising the next generation of witches and …

Available Until Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: What Does That Deviant Wench Think She's Doing? Or, Shadowhunters Gone Wild

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

What Does That Deviant Wench Think She's Doing? Or, Shadowhunters Gone Wild

by Sarah Rees Brennan

“So, technically, even though Jace isn’t actually related to you, you have kissed your brother.”

–Simon Lewis in City of Glass, telling it like it is

I hope, with this saucy title, that everyone has flipped right from the table of contents to this essay. Hi, guys! Almost every other essay will be more coherent and intelligent than this one, but if you want dirty jokes, you have come to the right place. Welcome to Sarah’s School of Deviant Literary Analysis, where everyone gets to canoodle, including Magnus Bane’s magnificent self.

And since I invoked Magnus Bane’s name because I was shamelessly cribbing off a phrase he used in City of Bones (nobody canoodles in his bedroom but his magnificent self), let’s begin my list of shameless debauchees (otherwise known as Cassandra Clare’s cast of characters) with a look at Magnus: warlock, Downworlder, fashion icon. Though the angel Raziel says that …

Available Until Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Behind the House of Night Names

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Nyx in the House of Night

Behind the House of Night Names

by

What’s in a name? Well, after reading how P.C. Cast discovered and wove the
Cruithne myths into her tales, you now know that much time and research has
gone into creating the intricate plotlines of the House of Night novels. The
same is true for the names of the characters.

Below is an appendix of the more intriguing names in the series. You won’t
find everyone’s here; with some names, like Heath Luck or Erik Night, what
you see is what you get. But for others, we’ve untangled the historical, mythological,
and pop culture ties–intentional and incidental–that give these
characters’ monikers a little extra magic.

 

The Fledglings

Zoey Redbird

Zoey (Greek) life; Redbird in Cherokee myth, the Redbird is the

daughter of the Sun

In the House of Night . . .

 

During their first meeting in Marked, Nyx calls Zoey u-s-ti Do-tsu-wa, or “little
Redbird.” Redbird is also the last name …

Available Until Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: As Bad as They Wanna Be

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

As Bad as They Wanna Be

by Hilary Wagner

I Heart Hades

I’ll admit, all the gods get decent marks on the “coolness scale,” but in my book, Hades is top dog, or top hellhound in his case. Sure, he’s a little bit on the brooding side and in need of a quality self-tanner, but still, the dude sports some serious swagger. Percy may have no love for the guy, but even he admits in The Lightning Thief that Hades was the only god he’d met so far that appeared godlike.Think about it–he’s the essence of cool, clad in black, long-haired and lanky, hanging out in his alternative night-clubby underworld palace. Sure, there’s that raging smell of sulfur and those bothersome bloodcurdling screams, but I’d imagine that’s easy for Hades to stomach with his glitzy goddess wife Persephone at his side. To boot, he’s richer than all get-out, making Zeus and Poseidon look like minor players on the who’s-who-of-godly-wealth list. …

Available Until Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

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Through the Wardrobe

Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

by Deb Caletti

When I was in the sixth grade, I loaned my copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Lisa Miller and never got it back. Not that I hold a grudge. Lisa had a surgery that required breaking both her legs and resetting them, putting her in a wheelchair for the good part of a year. Flimsy excuse, yes? I mean, this was my beloved and cherished copy, part of the ENTIRE SET of the Chronicles of Narnia that my parents had given me for Christmas when I was ten. An entire set of Narnia books without The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe–it’s like an entire set of dishes without the, well, dishes.

I still remember getting those books. For some reason, my mother had hidden them, unwrapped, inside a set of decorative drums that were underneath the Christmas tree. One day I was messing around, as any …

Available Until Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: When Laws Are Made to Be Broken

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

When Laws Are Made to Be Broken

by Robin Wasserman

“We Shadowhunters live by a code, and that code isn’t flexible.”

–Jace Wayland, City of Bones

Imagine that your best friend came to you one day, brimming with excitement because she’d met these super-awesome new friends who suggested she come live with them, follow a bunch of arcane and unquestionable laws, and cut ties with all her old friends because they’re incapable of understanding her new super-awesome life.

If you’re a child of the ’80s like me, reared on a steady diet of Jonestown horror stories and trashy novels about brainwashed teens, you would immediately recognize the situation for what it was: Your best friend has joined a cult.

If you’re not a child of the ’80s but not completely oblivious, you’d still clue in pretty quick: definitely a cult.

Simon Lewis is far from oblivious.

As he tells his best friend, Clary Fray, in City of Ashes, “The Shadowhunter thing–they’re like a cult.” …

Available Until Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Sweet Caroline

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Sweet Caroline

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I’ve prepared a speech about Caroline Forbes. Please don’t interrupt me, because I have a lot to say on the matter, and I really want to get this right.

By this point, you may already be wondering why I would choose to write about Caroline when there are brooding vampires and butt-kicking heroines to be discussed and a dark and twisty Damon Salvatore to be pondered, adored, and dissected. The answer is simple: in a world of vampires, witches, and tragically beautiful girls who never asked to be loved nearly so well as they are, Caroline is an exception to nearly every rule–even the ones she tries desperately to follow. Tactless, shallow, materialistic, and quick to judge, our Miss Forbes is the latest in a long line of loveable TV bitcas, heir to the throne of One Tree Hill’s Brooke Davis, Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, and

Available Until Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: My Dragon, Myself

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

My Dragon, Myself

by Kelly McClymer

Confession time: I love dragons, and have since the first time I heard of the mythical creatures who liked to kidnap princesses and test the princes who would rescue them. Only the best, bravest, smartest–smartest was always the key–could beat the evil, ravening, blazing beasts and free the princess. This appealed to me, maybe because I loved to doodle and the only recognizable thing I could doodle was a princess: billowing triangulation for a base, round head with long flowing hair, stick arms, and a pair of slippers peeping out under the skirt. Easy peasy. I must have doodled a million princesses in my time in school. Occasionally I’d try a dragon (theoretically a snake with scales and wings, right?). But my artistic talent was limited, so I always went back to princesses.

I can’t remember when I first learned about dragons, but I recall they were all vicious, cranky creatures …

Available Until Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Emotional Pleasures of Reading Twilight

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The Psychology of Twilight

The Emotional Pleasures of Reading Twilight

by Peter Stromberg

The Twilight Saga is, simplified, a tale of the romance and adventures of a young woman and an immortal vampire she meets at school. Readers of the novels do not reject this premise out of hand–“regular old teenage girl falls for ancient vampire”–because by now we are so used to the strange rules of romantic tales that this seems completely plausible. Indeed, a stock convention of the contemporary romance novel is the dark, mysterious, and potentially dangerous male (and in fact vampires and romance have gone together like burgers and fries since the nineteenth century1). The potentially dangerous, inappropriate male character provides one of the essential ingredients of the formula: romantic stories require a seemingly insuperable barrier to the couple’s desire for union. The actual romance is generated by the description of the couple’s burning desire for one another, not tales of their enjoyable companionship walking the dog and picking …

Available Until Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

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