Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dear Diary . . .

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Dear Diary . . .

by Karen Mahoney

Ah, diaries . . . repositories for our innermost thoughts and most private dreams. In literature throughout the ages, diaries have allowed us to get closer than ever to characters we seek to know better. A sneaky peek at someone’s journal equals a window right into his or her heart and soul; dark secrets are often revealed. We love the confessional aspect–especially, it seems, when it includes teen angst and tales of paranormal love.

But a diary is a written format. Sure, journal entries have been a common storytelling device used in fiction throughout the years, but on TV? How does that translate? Putting aside the original books written by L.J. Smith, how exactly does a TV show like The Vampire Diaries bring a character’s diary successfully to the screen and make it (a) work within the confines of a visual medium and (b) retain relevancy to the ongoing …

Available Until Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Brotherly Love

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Brotherly Love

by Kendare Blake

There’s a reason that stories end at Happily Ever After. Happy couples are boring. Bo-ring. It’s all kissy faces and “honey-bear this” and “snuggle-pie that.” It’s sweet, and deep, and meaningful. And it makes us want to close the book. As readers, we’re drawn in by the struggle, by the drama, by the desires of the characters. There are few things in literature more enthralling to read than the tale of two people who yearn to be together. The great love stories tell us that to be truly engaging, couples should yearn against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The more a couple has to overcome, the more forbidden the romance, the more we root for them. The young lovers of Romeo and Juliet defied a family feud and married in secret. Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar fought against societal constraints and shame in Brokeback Mountain. Lancelot and Guinevere overcame the constraints …

Available Until Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Secret's Out

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Flirtin' with the Monster

The Secret's Out

by Terri Clark

We who have a voice must speak for the voiceless.

–Archbishop Oscar Romero

Ellen Hopkins has a voice, one that speaks in rhythm and verse, with truth and grit. She speaks for the voiceless, revealing their tragedies, exposing their complex personal layers, whispering their secrets. In lyrical tones and sparse but striking words she delves into the darkness many real-life teens find themselves in. She tells the stories they hide from or hold tight to their chests.

The endings of those stories aren’t always happy, but then again neither is reality. Because of this Ellen refuses to tie things up with a perfect, pretty bow. When a reader fussed about her endings on a message board, Ellen responded by saying, “Life rarely ties everything up nicely, and while often novels do, those feel-good endings are contrived. I’d rather give you honesty.”

And that she does.

Her books tackle tough, often taboo, topics like …

Available Until Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Cruithne Mythology and the House of Night

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Nyx in the House of Night

Cruithne Mythology and the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

First, let me explain why I use the term “Cruithne” and not “Celtic” when I speak of Scottish and Irish Clansfolk.

It may surprise readers to find out that the word most used to describe the culture and people of northwestern Europe, Celtic or Celt, is a modern word that only came into popular usage in the last century. The word comes from a Latin description of a small Spanish tribe that Roman scribes and historians used to create myths about a fictional race they called the Celts. These myths were so successful that, in today’s world, it’s now generally believed that the Celts were every bit as real as the Romans, when in truth a “Celtic race” only existed in fiction.

The Scots and Irish Gaelic culture we associate with the term today, though, is very real. It just has no connection to those original Roman myths. After the Second World War, with the movement of peoples around Europe, …

Available Until Thursday, October 31st, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

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Nyx in the House of Night

Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

Even before I hit national bestseller lists, the two questions readers asked me more than any other were: 1) Where do you get your ideas? And 2) How much research do you do?

Okay, the two answers go hand in hand. Research has always been the foundation of my ideas. I actually enjoy researching, and I like doing it old style– paging through giant history and humanities textbooks in a musty research section of a library. As I go through tomes on history and sociology and mythology, my mind starts creating stories and pictures: changing, shifting, modernizing, rewriting. This process has always seemed totally normal to me. Ancient mythological tragedy? Bah! Everyone dies tragically with no happily ever after in history? No way! For as long as I can remember I’ve revised mythology, created worlds based on history, and then made the stories read the way I wanted them to read–quite …

Available Until Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Would You Want to Be One of Artemis's Hunters?

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Demigods and Monsters

Would You Want to Be One of Artemis's Hunters?

by Carolyn MacCullough

If given the option of eternal youth, my guess is that nine out of ten women would take it. After all, Oil of Olay, Revlon, and Lanc´me, among others, have spent millions of dollars in ad campaigns trying to convince us that we can purchase it in just one small bottle. As a society, we practically fetishize youth, craving that unlined skin and endless exuberance and effervescent energy that just seems to ooze from the pores of the very young. Most women strive to preserveyouth in even the smallest of ways, no matter how many times we steel ourselves to the idea of aging gracefully.

So what if someone made you an offer you thought you couldn’t refuse? An offer that seemed too good to be true (as most offers like this are)? What if Artemis herself, Greek goddess extraordinaire (also known as Diana if you happen to be Roman), mistress …

Available Until Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Monster Recognition for Beginners

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Demigods and Monsters

Monster Recognition for Beginners

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

What would you do if you woke up one morning and found a satyr on your front porch, and he explained that he was going to take you to a special camp for people like you: half-god, half-human?

You might be tempted to laugh, thinking it’s a practical joke. Or maybe you’d think it was great. But if you’ve read the Percy Jackson books, you would also be seriously worried. Being a demigod may sound glamorous, but in Percy’s world, the child of a god can look forward to a life full of hardships and danger. Heroes, whether they are on a quest or just trying to live through the school year, must always stay on their toes and on the lookout for monsters.

Imagine you’re living in Percy’s world: Does that donut store on the corner make a shiver run down your spine? Does the popularity of a certain coffee chain …

Available Until Thursday, October 17th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reading the Right Books

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Through the Wardrobe

Reading the Right Books

by Ned Vizzini

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was always my favorite Narnia book, and the wonder of being a kid is that you don’t have to question why things are your favorites. That’s for psychoanalysis later on. If you had come along and asked me why Dawn Treader beat out The Silver Chair, which has some really creepy parts, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I always got annoyed by because, in terms of the chronological events of the book, it should have been called The Wardrobe, the Witch and the Lion), I would have said that it was because it had cool monsters and lots of amazing islands and various killer enchantments that were really awesome.

But when you grow up you start to understand why you liked these things, and it can be quite sobering. In some cases the only explanation is that you were retarded (see …

Available Until Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: It's All in the Family

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The Psychology of Twilight

It's All in the Family

by Lisa M. Dinella

Most people view their family as the most important thing in their life. Common aphorisms such as “know your roots” and “blood is thicker than water” emphasize the foundational nature of family and the continuing role it plays in our lives. Why is family so key in our lives? The world-renowned family therapist Salvador Minuchin, whose work has largely focused on the overall structure and function of family, wrote in his book Families and Family Therapy: “In all cultures, the family imprints its members with selfhood. Human experience of identity has two elements; a sense of belonging and a sense of being separate. The laboratory in which these ingredients are mixed and dispensed is the family, the matrix of identity.”

The Twilight Saga chronicles Bella’s and Edward’s struggles to find both a sense of belonging and a sense of individual identity as they navigate their way through adolescence and into adulthood, …

Available Until Thursday, October 10th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Percy, I am Your Father

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Demigods and Monsters

Percy, I am Your Father

by Sarah Beth Durst

Note to self: Do not become a parent in a fantasy novel.

Seriously, have you ever noticed how disturbingly often parents in fantasy novels are dead, kidnapped, missing, clueless, distant, or unknown? Kind of makes me want to round up all the authors, sit them on those pleather psychiatrist couches, and say, “Now, tell me about your mother . . .”

On the other hand, it works very nicely as a storytelling device: Get the parents out of the way and then something interesting can happen. I think of it as the Home Alone technique. You see it in books by C. S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket, J. K. Rowling . . . and you definitely see it in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. All the kids at Camp Half-Blood, including the protagonist, Percy, are separated from their parents.

But are the parents really gone from the story? True, they don’t …

Available Until Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

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