Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Crime of Fashion

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Crime of Fashion

by Terri Clark

Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and
they remember the woman.

–Coco Chanel

By its very definition, “fashion statement” means our clothes speak for us. When a person thinks of that phrase, they are most likely to picture someone whose conscientious choice of attire stands out and evokes a strong response. Right now, Lady Gaga is the poster child for making provocative fashion statements. Who else would don a raw meat dress designed by Franc Fernandez and say it was in protest of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy? Yet, if she yanked on a pair of tattered sweats and a Hanes t-shirt among friends in the privacy of her own home, that too would articulate something about her. Because even when we’re not trying to draw focus to ourselves, what we choose to wear still makes a statement.

Our clothing tells other people who we are, whether we value comfort over frivolity, brand names over money-saving knockoffs, timeless …

Available Until Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

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A New Dawn

Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Romeo and Juliet nearly killed my GPA in high school. This is difficult for me to admit, being not only a literature geek, but a theater major. Shakespeare wrote some of the world’s most beautiful verse for those tragic lovers from Verona, but it took me a long time to understand why the play is a classic. What does this have to do with Stephenie Meyer’s compulsively readable, engrossingly gothic tale of Bella Swan and the vampire she loves? Well, Twilight is a little like Romeo and Juliet, except one of the pair is already dead. Meyer nods to this by opening New Moon with a quote from the play. Within the first chapter, Bella and Edward are discussing the similarities (sort of) between their relationship and that of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, and I’m patting myself on the back for my masterful insight. It’s the parallels to Shakespeare’s play that …

Available Until Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: She Is Goddess

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Nyx in the House of Night

She Is Goddess

by Yasmine Galenorn

She is Goddess. She is the moon overhead, full and ripe in the sky. She is
the ground under our feet, pungent and ripe with promise. She is the huntress
in the woods, fleet of foot, and the washerwoman at the stream, washing
bloody garments predicting deaths to come. She wears a triple face: Maiden,
Mother, Crone. She is gigantic–the 24,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf,
and she is lithe–Eos, the goddess of dawn. She is Kali, she is Artemis and
Athena and the Morrigan. As Gaia, the planet, she provides the sustenance
that keeps us alive. As Hel, she walks us into the Underworld at our death.
Eternal and cyclic, she is Goddess, the primal source of life and death.

Throughout history, the divine feminine has been worshiped and loved,
reviled and vilified, adored and feared. She has been exalted, and she has
been defiled. As the patriarchal religions rose, …

Available Until Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: O, To Be in Oxford

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Navigating the Golden Compass

O, To Be in Oxford

by Richard Harland

I want to ride through the night on an armored polar bear! I want to cut holes in the air and step through into other worlds! I want to fly in an airship over the Arctic snow! But most of all, I want to live like Lyra as a kid in her alternative Oxford!

What a life! Running on the rooftops, spitting plumstones onto the heads of passersby, engaging in alliances and wars, pelting the enemy with clods of earth! Or exploring underground cellars, drinking forbidden wine! Best of all–no parents!

Let’s face it. What’s the worst thing about being a kid in this non-alternative present-day reality of ours? It’s the way parents and adults want to involve themselves in your life, right? It’s the surveillance. Loving surveillance, caring surveillance–but still surveillance. Someone is always worrying themselves sick over you. If it’s not parents, it’s all the other adults. Medical specialists …

Available Until Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Kristina Speaks Up

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Flirtin' with the Monster

Kristina Speaks Up

by "Kristina"

I’m not exactly sure where to begin, but to describe where my heart was at the beginning and how it got lost along the way. Any way you look at things, I’d like it to be known that I’ve always wanted to do the right thing. Even when it came right down to destruction and carnage in my wake, I looked upon myself in a kind of helpless and detached way: a flailing passenger on a tumultuous runaway train destined to destroy everything in my path, knowing my own demise will be eminent upon encountering the slightest obstacle yet unable still to do anything but watch on autopilot and hang on for dear life.

I don’t blame anyone for my actions, or try to blame a bad childhood for my faults–in all actuality, I had a very privileged upbringing. I didn’t really see it as such, being your typical teenager, but …

Available Until Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: How the Inheritance Cycle Differs from Fantasy Epics in the Past

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

How the Inheritance Cycle Differs from Fantasy Epics in the Past

by Ian Irvine

Late in the twentieth century the world definitively entered the third age of storytelling, and this is changing the way some new authors tell stories, and how young audiences view them. Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle reflects this transition. The first age, oral storytelling, began with tales told around the campfires of hunters and gatherers. It was only after printing became cheap enough that books were widely available and compulsory education ensured most people were literate that the world transitioned to the second age, written storytelling. Written storytelling must have existed since the invention of writing around 5,000 years ago, but only took over as the predominant form when mass-produced books became affordable in the Industrial Revolution. And not everyone was happy about it. Even in Greek and Roman times people complained that writing tales down was ruining the craft of storytelling.

I had the opposite problem. When I first read Homer’s Iliad …

Available Until Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Beauty Smackdown

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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 Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

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

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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, November 18th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Two Princes

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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, November 11th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Best Friends for Never

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Mind-Rain

Best Friends for Never

by Robin Wasserman

This whole game is just designed to make us hate ourselves.

Shay, in Uglies

I am a natural born sidekick.

I say this with neither pride nor shame. It’s just a fact of my life that for every time I’ve been the star, there have been approximately 8 million more times that I’ve been the planet, circling in orbit around someone else’s bright flame.

Because I’ve been there myself, I pay closer attention than most to the girl behind the curtain. So I can admit, after close analysis, that in many ways Shay is the perfect sidekick for Tally Youngblood. In the tradition of all the greatest sidekicks (cf. Dr. Watson, Paris Geller, Mr. Smithers, Chewbacca), Shay’s overlooked and undervalued. And no matter what Tally does, Shay forgives her. She gets mad, she gets even–and then she comes back for more. She’s the wind beneath Tally’s wings. She’s a friend in deed …

Available Until Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

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