Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Sweet Caroline

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

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, May 1st, 2019

 Continue Reading “Sweet Caroline”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist

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

The Girl Who Was on Fire

Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist

by Mary Borsellino

There’s a piece of graffiti on a wall in Palestine. Over the years since it was painted, it’s been photographed by scores of travelers and journalists. It reads:

Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist. Keep fighting. Keep loving.

More than bombs, fire, guns or arrows, love is the most powerful weapon in the Hunger Games. It stirs and feeds the rebellion. It saves the doomed. It destroys the bereaved. And it gives even the most devastated survivors a reason to go on.

“Love” is not synonymous with “passion”. Hatred is also a passionate emotion. When I say “love” here, I mean compassion, loyalty, empathy, and the bonds of friendship, family, and romance. All these things are present in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. So too are greed, selfishness, hatred, and fear. That the protagonists are able to put stock in love, even while given so many reasons to hate, is what gives the Hunger Games a note of hope despite the …

Available Until Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

 Continue Reading “Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist”»

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

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

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, April 17th, 2019

 Continue Reading “When Laws Are Made to Be Broken”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Naturally Unnatural

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

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, April 10th, 2019

 Continue Reading “Naturally Unnatural”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A Special Hero

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

Mind-Rain

A Special Hero

by J FitzGerald McCurdy

In fiction, heroes and villains are usually main characters, often in opposition to one another. Heroes are distinguished by their exceptional courage, fortitude, and boldness, while villains are depicted as egregiously wicked, corrupt, or malevolent.

In the Uglies series, Dr. Cable is clearly the villain. Her lust for power and control is right up there with that of our world’s most notorious bad guys, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. And like those historic villains, Cable is a sociopath who will do whatever it takes, even murder, to maintain the status quo, convinced that the end–keeping the population in its cage to protect the world–justifies the means. When Special Circumstances attacks the Smoke at her instruction and kills the Boss, the cantankerous middle-aged ugly who looks after the Smoke’s collection of old Rusty magazines, Cable displays neither regret for her troops’ excessive use of violence nor remorse over the old man’s death. …

Available Until Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

 Continue Reading “A Special Hero”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Two Princes

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

Mind-Rain

Two Princes

by Sarah Beth Durst

“How lucky is that?” Tally muttered to herself. “Sleeping Beauty with two princes. What was she supposed to do? Choose between David and Zane?”

–Pretties

David or Zane?

Who would you choose?

Who should Tally have chosen?

I think that one of the most awesome things about Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series is that it’s not obvious which guy is best for Tally. Okay, yeah, in the end, Tally’s best choice is the not-dead guy, but ignoring that tiny detail. . . . Both are decent guys. Both care about her, and she cares about both of them. And they like each other. It’s a true love triangle. Seriously bubbly.

But one of them must be her true Prince Charming, right? So which one? I have been giving this a lot of thought, and I’ve decided that the best way to judge them is to subject them both to the indignities of a boyfriend quiz, …

Available Until Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

 Continue Reading “Two Princes”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Dangerous Dead

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

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, March 27th, 2019

 Continue Reading “The Dangerous Dead”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

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

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 …

Available Until Friday, March 22nd, 2019

 Continue Reading “Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: My Dragon, Myself

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

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, March 20th, 2019

 Continue Reading “My Dragon, Myself”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Waking Up the Trees

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

Through the Wardrobe

Waking Up the Trees

by Susan Juby

The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained.

–Henry Beston

The just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam

–William Blake

The way I read him, C. S. Lewis was a tree-hugger. He was a don at Oxford and very dignified, so he probably skipped the tie-dye and the patchouli incense, but his Chronicles of Narnia, and especially Prince Caspian, suggest that he was as green as any modern day eco-freak. Prince Caspian can be seen as the fantasy equivalent of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth: it shows us that we human beings can become more responsible citizens of the planet Earth, if only we face the facts about the effects we have on our environment and let ourselves get a little closer …

Available Until Thursday, March 14th, 2019

 Continue Reading “Waking Up the Trees”»

Stay Updated

Our Books

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