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, March 13th, 2019

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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, March 6th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Team Katniss

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Team Katniss

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

These days, it seems like you can’t throw a fish in a bookstore without hitting a high-stakes love triangle–not that I recommend the throwing of fish in bookstores, mind you (it annoys the booksellers–not to mention the fish), but it certainly seems like more and more YA heroines are being faced with a problem of abundance when it comes to the opposite sex. While I am a total sucker for romance (not to mention quite fond of a variety of fictional boys myself), I still can’t help but wonder if, as readers, we’re becoming so used to romantic conflict taking center stage that we focus in on that aspect of fiction even when there are much larger issues at play.

No book has ever made me ponder this question as much as Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy–in part because it seems like everyone I know has very strong feelings about which boy is the best fit for Katniss, but also because the books themselves contain …

Available Until Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Challenging the Gods

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Mind-Rain

Challenging the Gods

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

I should have known the Prettiverse wouldn’t be pretty.

Any book that starts out by comparing the sky to cat vomit is probably not going to be full of unicorns and rainbows. Not unless the unicorns are surgically engineered special police and the rainbows are really the artificial light reflecting off the metaphorical fog of your nanotech-induced complacency.

Strange as it seems, I mean it as a compliment when I say that the Uglies series scared and depressed me. This type of book, which eggheads and English teachers call “dystopian fiction,” makes you think about what’s wrong with the world. It’s built on things that are messed up in our society right now, and shows very clearly where we could be headed if things don’t change. That can be a real downer.

Fortunately, the Prettiverse has two things: hoverboards (which are, let’s face it, just plain cool), and Tally Youngblood, who uses her …

Available Until Thursday, February 28th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Percy Jackson and the Lords of Death

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

Percy Jackson and the Lords of Death

by J&P Voelkel

Once Percy Jackson has vanquished all the foes that Greek and Roman myths can throw at him, what’s next? Sure, his old adversaries could re-materialize and attack at any moment, but like a video game you’ve already beaten, the second time around would be so much ancient history. Yawn.

And what’s the point of spending all your summers at Camp Half-Blood if you have no new challenges to train for? There are only so many sword practices, mock battles, and games of Capture the Flag you can play before your hyperactive demigod brain starts itching for some real-life action.

So it seems like only a matter of time before Percy would be hounding the Oracle for a new prophecy and begging Chiron for a new mission to sink his celestial bronze sword into.

Something huge. Something different.

Something extraordinary.

Something even a battle-hardened demigod has never faced before.

No problem.

It’s a big world out there and …

Available Until Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Panem et Circenses

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Panem et Circenses

by Carrie Ryan

In the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins takes our obsession with Reality TV and extends it to the most horrifying ends: a society that views kids killing kids as entertainment. It’s easy to find this an uncomfortable premise–to turn our noses up and say that while we may enjoy Survivor or Big Brother every now and again, we’d never let society slip to such levels. However, there’s also a deeper, more difficult message in the Hunger Games series: the extent to which media can be manipulated as a means of controlling the populace and how we as viewers have abdicated any agency in the process.

This then leads to an even more troubling aspect of the trilogy: our complicity in said message. But for the viewers’ participation, the Hunger Games would not exist in the same way that, but for our tuning in, Reality TV wouldn’t exist. …

Available Until Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A New Eve

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Navigating the Golden Compass

A New Eve

by Dave Hodgson

Alongside the adventures, the love story, the battles and the fantasy, His Dark Materials holds a crucial prophecy: Lyra is to become the new Eve. This Eve’s purpose is not made fully clear, except that she should restore the Dust and begin to build a “Republic of Heaven.” But how will the members of this new republic behave? Like the previous regent of heaven who kept his predecessor alive in a box and those who endeavoured to destroy Dust, calling it “sin”? Clearly not. In fiction it’s easy to delineate between good and evil. At the end of The Amber Spyglass we’re left with the confidence that if Lyra succeeds she will begin a new direction for Homo sapiens: a new lifestyle that better values biodiversity, that harvests resources more sustainably and that acts unselfishly for the benefit of others.

With these optimistic thoughts we can all retire to our normal …

Available Until Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

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Divergent Thinking Book Launch + Giveaways!

By jennifer

Our Divergent anthology, Divergent Thinking: YA Authors on Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy, is officially launching next week. In fact, our introductory post about the book is already up. We’re pretty excited around Smart Pop Headquarters because we’re all big fans of the books and we’re eagerly awaiting the release of the movie in a few weeks. (Seriously, a Veronica Mars movie and a Divergent movie in the same month? March 2014, you’re not too shabby.)

Not only are we excited about the movie and about the release of Divergent Thinking, we’re extra excited about the week-long event we have planned around the release in partnership with the Divergent fansite community. Next week is officially:

dt-blogpost-graphic

We hope you’ll visit each of

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A Little More Information on Divergent Thinking

By Leah

Each season we announce our new titles individually, each in their own post, to give you a little extra background behind the book. If you’ve missed any, you can check them all out here.

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Divergent Thinking“The Divergent trilogy provides a wealth of ideas for readers to respond to. Divergent Thinking collects the responses of more than a dozen of those readers, all of whom also happen to be YA writers themselves. Each came to Tris’ story with his or her own influences and experiences, and each came away with—and shares here—something different . . .

For me, reading about what this particular set of readers saw in the trilogy made my experience of

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Return to Panem with author V. Arrow

By Heather

Each season we announce our new titles individually, each in their own post, to give you a little extra background behind the book. If you’ve missed any, you can check them all out here. All of Fall 2012”²s intro posts are here.

For The Panem Companion, our latest companion book, on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (from Mellark Bakery to Mockingjays), we’ve asked the book’s author, V. Arrow, to write the intro post. Read her thoughts on writing The Panem Companion below! And don’t forget, you can sign up on the book page to get a free excerpt.

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If I had known that staying up until 3 a.m. with a carton of ice cream to talk to my best friend about The Hunger

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