Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The War between the States

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

The War between the States

by Claudia Gray

The online protests began around the time the makers of The Vampire Diaries cast Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert. Were fans of the book series worried that Dobrev couldn’t carry the central role? Nope. Were they advocating for another fan-favorite candidate? No again. There was no way Dobrev could play Elena–because Dobrev is a brunette, and in the original L.J. Smith books, Elena is a blonde.

It seems like a pretty small thing to get upset about, but when it comes to adapting a beloved book into film or television, fans understandably dread the inevitable changes. We’ve all been burned before by books that got “dumbed down” or turned into something unrecognizable from the story we originally loved. Even alterations as minor as a character’s hair color set off warning bells, making those of us who loved the books wonder just what else was about to get changed. But …

Available Until Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Elements of Life

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Elements of Life

by Bryan Lankford

Good evening! It’s good to see this many humans who are interested in vampyre culture. As it has been many years since I’ve spoken to a group this large who were not vampyres, I beg your indulgence if I misspeak somewhere along the line. Tonight we are going to be discussing rituals and the elements as they are used in vampyre worship.

Many of you have read about vampyre rituals in Zoey’s chronicles, but it may surprise you to know that our form of worship is not confined exclusively to the vampyre community. There are in fact many human groups who think and worship in a very similar fashion to vampyres. Human groups such as Wiccans, Pagans, Shamans, and witches all over the earth live and worship in a manner similar to us. They do not all worship our Goddess Nyx, nor do they use blood in ritual, but …

Available Until Monday, April 20th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Why Kristina Can't Just Quit

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Flirtin' with the Monster

Why Kristina Can't Just Quit

by Mary Bryan

Addiction is a puzzle, difficult to understand because it is different in each person. It is a disease of the brain, but it is not just physical. It’s also psychological, social, neurological, and environmental. Addiction is not secondary to another condition like a mental health disorder. It is a primary condition; the addictive disease is what causes the drinking and/or drug use, not the other way around.

Some of the predictors of addiction include physical or sexual abuse, family history of substance abuse or alcoholism, depression, anxiety, conduct disturbances, personality disorders, poor coping skills, chaotic living environment, and heavy tobacco use, and one study even mentions previous multiple automobile accidents. But while there are high-risk predictors, many people who have all of them do not become addicts, and people who have none of the predictors do become addicts. No one can predict accurately who will become addicted and who will not.

The Addictive Process

The general pattern of addiction is one of progression. There is no …

Available Until Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Secrets of the Dragon Riders

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

Introduction: Secrets of the Dragon Riders

by James A. Owen

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.

–ERASMUS

That quote by Desiderus Erasmus is usually mentioned, wryly, by someone who doesn’t share Erasmus’ point of view about someone who does. I’m so far in the latter category I can’t even see the other side. I am utterly addicted to print, and am physically incapable of passing a newsstand, bookstore, or secondhand shop without giving the books on display at least a cursory glance. More often than not (which means practically every single time) I make some kind of a purchase, and for a moment that new book might as well have been under a Christmas tree for all the love I foster on it.

To a lot of people, it might seem as if my priorities are a bit skewed–but I’m really just engaging in something as old …

Available Until Thursday, April 9th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Ender's World

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Ender's World

Introduction: Ender's World

by Orson Scott Card

I thought I had a pretty good story when I gave my first draft of the original novelet “Ender’s Game” to my mother to type up for submission.

My mother had been another set of eyes on all my plays and my handful of previous stories. So even though I had long been a very fast and accurate typist myself, I passed her my longhand manuscript because I wanted to see how the story would work for her. This was my first serious attempt to write a sci-fi story to sell. My theatre company was getting good attendance, but losing money even with no rent and no salaries to pay (you can lose money on hit plays). I needed “Ender’s Game” to help me launch a non-theatrical writing career. As a non-fan of sci-fi, my mother would definitely let me know if I had something that would work outside the science …

Available Until Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Destination: Forks, Washington

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A New Dawn

Destination: Forks, Washington

by Cara Lockwood

I don’t like road trips. And I’ll tell you why.

Sure, there’s the whole being trapped in a car for hours eating Big Macs for days thing, while your legs go numb and you start wondering if it’s possible to die of boredom.

But for me it’s more than that.

I could handle death by French fry. What I can’t handle is driving by all those small towns.

Some people love small towns. My stepdad grew up on a farm, and he loves taking those winding back roads in the country–the ones lined with cows on either side, and green hills and trees, that have blinking red lights because there’s not enough traffic for a single stoplight. Even my mom likes shopping in small towns. She says she finds good antiques there.

But any time I get away from the city and I find myself far from a major highway on one of those two-lane …

Available Until Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Divine Cat

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Divine Cat

by Ellen Steiber

I might as well admit my prejudice up front: I’ve been crazy about cats for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been lucky enough to live with them for most of my life. So one of the things that immediately drew me into the House of Night series was the cats. Cats everywhere, roaming freely, and always welcome in the dorms, cafeteria, stables, and even the classrooms–basically my idea of the perfect school. Then I was completely charmed by Nala, the sneezey, often grumpy, little cat who chooses Zoey for her own. P.C. and Kristin Cast clearly know and love their cats, and it’s a delight to see how they use them in these books. Not only do they create very real felines–sweet, moody, comforting, and impossible to predict or control–but they make creative use of some of the mythic and mystical lore that has been …

Available Until Monday, March 30th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Eating in Narnia

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Through the Wardrobe

Eating in Narnia

by Diane Duane

One thing a traveler among universes quickly discovers is that, in many of them, the food’s terrible.

This is at least partly a situational problem–a matter of perception. Normally, when people from Earth pass through other fictional universes, they’re not there for a pleasure cruise. Normally there’s a quest involved, so that they usually wind up running away from something (Orcs, unfriendly armies, assassins, eldritch monsters), hiding from something (ditto), or otherwise getting too preoccupied with local events to care much about the catering. While this is entirely understandable, it’s still unfortunate. Unless a given universe’s creator is kind to you, you will never have a chance to sit down and appreciate the local cuisine. Among the less kind (or lazier) creators, you’re likely to wind up eating nothing but the fantasy version of fast food: waybread. No matter what kind of valuable life lessons you might learn from such a …

Available Until Thursday, March 26th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Role Models

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Flirtin' with the Monster

Role Models

by Niki Burnham

I write books about teenagers, primarily for teenagers (though teen-savvy adults read them, too). Some of the books have stylized cartoon covers, tipping off the reader that what’s on the pages is comedy. Despite that, over the years I’ve received many letters from concerned parents, questioning whether or not my books are appropriately shelved. They cite the fact that some of the characters use foul language, that one character has a gay mother, or that one character smokes (ignoring the fact that she quits) in support of their argument that my writing is a “bad influence” on teen readers. I’m often taken to task for not living up to my “responsibility” as an author to provide teenagers with good role models.

While I understand their concerns, I believe that attempting to limit teens’ reading to “good role models” is the wrong way to go about educating teens about the world in which we all live.

When sitting down to craft a story, an author’s primary responsibility …

Available Until Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

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Through the Wardrobe

Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

by Brent Hartinger

A wild forest grew across the street from the house in the suburbs where I grew up. Technically, it was merely a “holding basin”–a patch of land that city engineers had set aside from development to hold back the floodwaters that occasionally swelled up from the little creek that ran through the neighborhood. But it was dense and untamed; much of it was swampland, which made it inaccessible to all but those with a strong sense of adventure, not to mention hip-boots.

As a boy, my friends and I spent almost every waking hour in that forest, and slowly but surely it surrendered its secrets: a broken well, a decaying shack left by homesteaders, part of an abandoned railroad track said to have been laid over an old Indian trail. Once, while walking through dense thicket in the fall, my friends and I noticed that many of the trees were suddenly …

Available Until Monday, March 23rd, 2020

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