Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Politics of Mockingjay

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

The Politics of Mockingjay

by Sarah Darer Littman

Maybe it’s because of my political background, but when I read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series the focus was never about Team Gale or Team Peeta the way it was for so many readers; the romance was a subplot. I majored in political science in college, and when I’m not writing books for teens, I’m a columnist for Hearst newspapers and a writer and blogger for various political websites, including CT News Junkie and My Left Nutmeg. To my mind, the Hunger Games trilogy was always more about “The System”–a political system that would not just allow but require children to fight to the death in televised games.

According to an interview in the School Library Journal, Collins said she drew her inspiration for the Hunger Games from imagining a cross between the war in Iraq and reality TV, after flipping through the channels one night and seeing the juxtaposition between the coverage of the war and reality TV programming. While I’ve …

Available Until Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

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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 Friday, October 5th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Greek Hero–New and Improved!

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

The Greek Hero–New and Improved!

by Hilari Bell

Essay excerpt to come!

Available Until Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

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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 …

Available Until Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

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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 Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reality Hunger

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Reality Hunger

by Ned Vizzini

When I was nineteen, slightly older than Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (and worse at archery), I was invited to leave my home and journey to a faraway land to prepare for a new chapter in my life. The faraway land was not the Capitol but Minneapolis, Minnesota. The new chapter was not a pubescent deathmatch–I had just been through that in high school–but a professional arena where every day contestants young and old are ground up and forgotten, driven to alcoholism, and sent back to graduate school. I was going to be a published author. My publisher had decided that I needed “media training.”

I arrived at MSP Airport with scant television experience. In grade school I had been on a Nickelodeon “Big Help” public service ad raking leaves and was given 0.2 seconds of screen time; as an infant I had failed out of auditions for a diaper commercial. (I could still end up in an adult diaper …

Available Until Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dancing with the Wolves

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A New Dawn

Dancing with the Wolves

by Linda Gerber

The wolf’s eyes were dark, nearly black. It gazed at me for a fraction of a second, the deep eyes seeming too intelligent for a wild animal. As it stared at me, I suddenly thought of Jacob….

–NEW MOON

I might as well confess up front–I’m one of those people: a diehard Jacob fan. Not that I don’t love Edward, mind you, but there’s something accessible and familiar about Jacob that Edward, in all his stone-cold beauty, can’t touch. Jacob doesn’t have Edward’s years of experience or polish. He’s na¯ve, he’s rash, and he’s delightfully primal. And when we learn the boy is part wolf, he’s irresistible. It’s only natural, that attraction; we humans have a certain fascination with canis lupus that can’t be denied. Look at all the wolves that pop up in our myths and legends throughout the millennia. We can’t get enough of them. As Daniel Wood …

Available Until Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Great Debate

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A New Dawn

The Great Debate

by Rachel Caine

DEBATE HOST: Welcome to the most popular reality show on high-numbered cable television: The Great Debate! We have two teams of very learned, articulate scholars with us to debate an exciting and timely topic: Resolved: Vampire-themed fiction represents thinly veiled sexuality and violence. Therefore, vampire fiction is not suitable for young adults, and in particular Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, which has brought vampire-themed young adult fiction to the forefront, is not appropriate for young adult readers.

Boos and hisses from the audience.

DEBATE HOST: With us today, arguing that vampire fiction is unsuitable for young adults, are Professor Nelda Harlen-Price, head of the English Literature department at the Skokie Academy for the Arts, and Professor Hans Scheller of the University of Classical Education, author of the monograph On The Sexual Content and Repressive Nature of Folklore-Based Fictional Adaptations.

Reluctant applause from studio audience.

HARLEN-PRICE: Happy to be here.

SCHELLER: Ja.

DEBATE HOST: Advocating the right of …

Available Until Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Thing About Elves Is...

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

The Thing About Elves Is...

by Gail Sidonie Sobat

Well, they’re a slippery lot. Hard to pin down. The wee folk. The little people. Fairies. Or is that faeries? Or brownies? Or pixies? Pan or Puck? Sylphs or dryads or nymphs? Goblins or hobgoblins or gremlins or gnomes? Leprechauns or imps or sprites?

Enough to set the mind reeling!

So to begin at the beginning, sort of: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, elf is an Old English word (sometimes spelled ylf/ielf/aelf/alf) which denotes “a class of supernatural beings, believed to be of dwarfish form, and to possess magical powers, which they exercised either to the help or the hurt of mankind. Now a mere synonym of fairy. Sometimes distinguished from fairies a) as a subject species; b) as more malignant.”

But how did these creatures of the stuffy Oxford morph into the vibrant Arya and Islanzad­ and Oromis and those other elves who people (er . . . elfize?) Paolini’s Inheritance …

Available Until Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Bent, Shattered, and Mended

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Bent, Shattered, and Mended

by Blythe Woolston

The Hunger Games trilogy gave me bad dreams. Actually, the books provided images, feelings, and ideas that my brain used as ingredients to brew up nightmares about children’s bones floating in a river of red dust and creepy lizard mutts lurking in the storm drain outside my front door. My brain is good at that sort of thing. But dreaming wasn’t the only business my brain was doing while I slept. It was also forming memories. That is why I remember Greasy Sae’s concoction of mouse meat and pig entrails, Prim’s untucked shirt, and, of course, Katniss, the girl on fire.

You probably remember why Katniss called Prim “little duck.” It’s a detail that’s important to the story. But–unless you share my personal fascination with mice and nasty-bad soup–Sae’s recipe isn’t stashed in long-term memory. That’s because every individual has a unique brain in charge of selecting information and forming memories. Depending on our previous experiences, we notice some things and ignore others. In the …

Available Until Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

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