Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Don't Be Fooled by that Noble Chin: Stefan Sucks

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Don't Be Fooled by that Noble Chin: Stefan Sucks

by Kiersten White

Ah, Stefan Salvatore. That hair! That jaw! Those soulful green eyes that spend absurd amounts of time per episode directing agonized and/or lustful looks toward the object of his love and obsession! He keeps a journal, he broods, he sheds manly tears, he (generally) doesn’t drink human blood. He is a paragon of vampire virtue and a shining example of what a boyfriend should be.

Except, not so much. And I’m not talking about how, when force-fed human blood, he went all crazy-junkie on us for a few episodes. That I can forgive. He’s a vampire, after all, and he can’t help being drawn to blood. No, it’s the rest of the time that Stefan creeps me out. Forget lovely murderous sociopath Damon–it’s Stefan who is the true villain of Mystic Falls. He uses guilt as a tool for manipulation (of himself and others) and, more dangerously, as an excuse to …

Available Until Friday, December 20th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: By Their Marks You Shall Know Them

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Nyx in the House of Night

By Their Marks You Shall Know Them

by Jana Oliver

What exactly possessed primitive humans to inflict marks on their skin is hard to fathom. Perhaps one of the tribesmen had inadvertently gotten some dirt or ashes in a wound and once it healed, it remained discolored. While sitting around the fire swapping tales, his buddies might have made note of this new thing. With a little experimentation, they realized that if they opened a fresh wound, charred a stick, and buried the black residue inside the slice, the result was a tattoo. Proof that humans are endlessly inventive when they’re bored.

Thousands of years later we have a story about a high school girl who is having a rough day: while Zoey Montgomery is trying to cough her lungs out, her best friend is prattling on about Z’s drunken “almost” boyfriend and a football game. That all becomes irrelevant when Zoey spies the undead guy standing next to …

Available Until Thursday, December 19th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Curious Case of Primrose “Everdeen”

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The Panem Companion

The Curious Case of Primrose “Everdeen”

by V. Arrow

On the first day of kindergarten for Katniss and Peeta, when Prim was between six months and one year old, Mr. Mellark told his five-year-old son that he had been in love with Mrs. Everdeen, but that she “ran away with a coal miner” and he “had to” marry Mrs. Mellark.

Why was this still so salient and so fresh in his mind that he shared it with his five-year-old child?

It’s easy to extrapolate that the reason for his confession was in the schoolyard that morning, being kissed good-bye by the girl in a red plaid dress. However, it’s not the only reason fans have considered.

The question of Prim’s parentage is a significant point of analytical fandom debate. Is blonde-haired, blue-eyed Prim really the “passes”-for-merchant biracial daughter of dark-haired Mr. Everdeen? Or should Prim really be Primrose Mellark? There are staunch supporters on both sides of the issue.

Katniss does not at …

Available Until Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: A New Dawn

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A New Dawn

Introduction: A New Dawn

by Ellen Hopkins

Tread carefully, dear readers. There’s a new vampire in town, and Edward Cullen is so not your mother’s vampire. Okay, he does have a few things in common with more classic bloodsuckers like Anne Rice’s Lestat. He’s cultured. Insanely alluring. Downright dazzlingly sexy. Drop-dead gorgeous, in fact. (Sorry, couldn’t help the double entendre, and you’ll find more in this book. Authors just love stuff like that.) But what makes Edward so damn addictive is not his undeadness. It’s his abiding humanity. Okay, confession. I was at first dumbfounded by the success of Twilight and its sequels, Eclipse, New Moon, and Breaking Dawn. Oh, I’ve always understood the lure of the vampire. For many years I was, in fact, a dedicated horror reader. Stephen King and Dean Koontz were always at the top of my reading lists, along with classic authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley. When …

Available Until Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

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

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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 Friday, December 6th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: The Panem Companion

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The Panem Companion

Introduction: The Panem Companion

by V. Arrow

The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, is arguably the most significant Young Adult literary work of the last few years; it has certainly been the most visible. It has also been lauded for its accessibility to a wide audience, from students reading it as an assignment in schools to adult men and women reading it for its literary value–or to see what all the fuss is about.

What is that fuss about? What makes the Hunger Games so compelling as to have become an international phenomenon? On first blush, the synopsis of the series does not exactly sound like the kind of pleasant, jaunty read that most casual readers would seek out–the story of a girl trying to survive a gladiatorial battle to the death in a televised competition, which ends with a war that kills most of the beloved characters–and its status as a young adult novel would seem, …

Available Until Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

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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 Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

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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, November 27th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

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The Panem Companion

Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

by V. Arrow

Although Mockingjay is easily the least popular of the three Hunger Games series novels, it is not due to any lack of intrigue, excitement, romance, world-building, or character development. Most commonly, this is attributed to the final novel’s lack of continued delineation between “good characters” like Gale and Peeta and “bad characters” such as President Snow. Mockingjay hinges on providing no good guys, bad guys, or morally satisfying conclusions to Panem’s–or Katniss’–story.

This is implicit from very early in the book, when Katniss first arrives in District 13 and learns that, rather than being a small, struggling, ragtag commune, District 13 is a thriving, strict, structured society. The Capitol’s citizens are ignorant of the horror of the Games; the citizens of District 13 know, understand, and purposely ignore the horror of the Games, so long as their lives are not affected. This similarity between ignorant compliance and willful negligence, and what …

Available Until Thursday, November 21st, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: How Panem Came to Be

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The Panem Companion

How Panem Came to Be

by V. Arrow

Although conjectures about geological cataclysm would explain the physical borders–perhaps even the provincial organization–of Panem, its true dystopian horror comes from a cataclysm of a more anthropogenic nature. Panem is post-apocalyptic because of the end of our known world geography, but it is dystopian because of its political, socioeconomic, and cultural collapse and the ways it is dealt with by the Capitol. After all, it isn’t centralized government like the Capitol’s or geographically disparate states that is frightening; it is the operation of the Hunger Games, a system that targets its disenfranchised for death. Although employing the Hunger Games as reparations for civil war is unjust enough, the Games’ enforcement of a society built on institutional classism–and, we can infer from the text, racism–is truly horrifying. (Racism and classism will be discussed in chapters three and four.) Shifting geography alone could not cause this kind of catastrophic change in ideology–so …

Available Until Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

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