Free Smart Pop YA Essay: In Which Our Intrepid Heroines Discuss the Merits of the Bad Boy Versus the Reformed Bad Boy

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

In Which Our Intrepid Heroines Discuss the Merits of the Bad Boy Versus the Reformed Bad Boy

by Alyxandra Harvey

Night trembled on bat wings over the treetops.

“Well, that’s just awful.” Lizzie scratched it out so ferociously the paper pockmarked. The candle next to her elbow rattled. “It’s about vampires, of course it’s got bats and night.”

She was still sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table and scowling at the offending description when Cat burst into Lizzie’s parents’ sunroom. “I know! I know! I’m late,” she said, sounding out of breath, as always. “I got this text from Edw–oooh, hey, is that Vampire Diaries?” She plopped onto a chair facing the television, entranced. “Damon totally takes his shirt off in this episode.”

“You’re late,” Lizzie said.

“Shh. Damon.”

“Please, Stefan’s cuter.”

Cat looked away for barely a second, one eyebrow raised in patent disbelief. “Is not.”

Lizzie pointed to the screen. “Look at that half smile. Those eyes. You can just tell he’s deep. …

Available Until Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?

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Demigods and Monsters

Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?

by Ellen Steiber

Could there be a more bizarre choice for director of Camp Half-Blood than Dionysus?

Rick Riordan has a gift for playing with the Greek myths. He delights in taking the gods and their stories and giving them just enough of a twist to make them completely believable in our world while still retaining the essence of the ancient beliefs. His Dionysus, more safely referred to as Mr. D (names are, after all, powerfulthings), takes the image of the Greek god of wine and revelry and twists it into a believable contemporary portrait: If you spent most of your time drinking and partying like Mr. D, there’s a good chance that by the time you reached middle age, you too would be overweight, badly dressed, and not care a fig about anything except when you could get your next drink. You certainly wouldn’t be thrilled by having a bunch of “brats” foisted …

Available Until Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Bonnie Bennett: A New Kind of Best Friend

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Bonnie Bennett: A New Kind of Best Friend

by Bree Despain

As an author of teen fiction, there are many things I
absolutely love about my job: meeting new people,
spending all day creating fictional boys for my readers to
crush on, and developing whole new mythologies inside my
head. But I have to say that one of the absolute best parts of
my job is that watching shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars,
and Friday Night Lights is actually
considered work. After a long day of writing and mommyhood
there’s nothing better than cuddling up with my hubby
and a bowl of popcorn and firing up the TiVo.

Some may call this vegging.
I call it research.

You see, as I’m watching, I’m also taking mental notes on
the choices the writers and directors have made concerning
plot, dialogue, pacing, and the …

Available Until Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

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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, June 13th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Magic of Being Cherokee

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Magic of Being Cherokee

by Jordan Dane

The House of Night series is unique from other vampyre lore in many ways, but when authors P. C. and Kristin Cast add depth to the fictional character of Zoey Redbird by giving her the Native American blood of a Cherokee, that’s where the magic in these novels becomes truly special. Native American culture is used as a springboard for the fictional world depicted in the series. The authors research real Cherokee myths and legends to add color and authenticity, then add creative twists to bring these myths alive on the page. And although the authors have never claimed to be experts on the Cherokee, the strength and depth of the Cherokee Nation shines like a beacon through their young heroine.

Sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird is from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Though Oklahoma is home to a larger-than-average Cherokee population, Zoey’s Cherokee roots still mean she looks different from the other kids at …

Available Until Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

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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, May 31st, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: King Edmund the Cute

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Through the Wardrobe

King Edmund the Cute

by Diana Peterfreund

Let’s get it straight: I wasn’t sitting around writing “Diana Hearts Edmund” in my Trapper Keeper, but I had an enormous crush on Edmund Pevensie when I was a kid. When I admit that to people, then and now, I invariably get a reaction that’s halfway between bemused and appalled. Edmund? they say. Isn’t he the petulant, whiny traitor responsible for Aslan’s death?

Yes, yes he is. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But that’s only the start of Edmund’s adventures in Narnia. He pulls it together by the end of that book and proceeds to rock out for four more. No, Ed doesn’t leave us with the best first impression in all of literature, but he more than makes up for it in the rest of the series.

If anything, his experiences in the first book1 give him a breadth of knowledge and depth of experience and sorrow …

Available Until Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Case Notes: Salvatore, Stefan and Salvatore, Damon

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Case Notes: Salvatore, Stefan and Salvatore, Damon

by Heidi R. Kling

Note: Since the subjects are fictional characters, rather than sit down
with them separately or together, the therapist viewed twenty-two
hours of tape footage (one “season”) depicting their interactions with
one another and with others.


Stefan Salvatore



Stefan Salvatore is male, Caucasian, appearing to be about
seventeen years old (younger than his stated age of 162).
Stefan stands approximately 5’10”. With a coif of stiff “James
Dean” hair, a black leather jacket, and expensive designer
pants, he resembles a rebellious–albeit wealthy and wellgroomed–
teenager from the 1950s. Other than an ornate
ring he wears no jewelry. His build is athletic, with an
emphasis on weightlifting; the thin black T-shirt he wears
reveals clearly defined pectorals. Though Stefan is officially
undead, he appears healthy.

Available Until Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Show Me, Don't Tell Me

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Navigating the Golden Compass

Show Me, Don't Tell Me

by Daniel P. Moloney

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is obviously indebted to the Christian story and derives much of its form from it. But rather than trying to write a modern Christian allegory in the fashion of C. S. Lewis, Pullman attempted to write an anti-Christian allegory based on a revisionist interpretation of Paradise Lost in which Satan is the hero. Pullman has made no secret that he intends his story to be offensive to Christians, and in this he succeeds (after all, to offend, it is sufficient to communicate one’s desire to offend). But, his scorn for the Church aside, the religion to which Pullman’s novel is opposed is such a caricature of real Christianity that most Christians would join him in rejecting it. At his best, his storytelling even advances Christian themes and values.

Pullman’s best is very good, and not offensive to Christians. It’s when he tries to propose anti-Christian …

Available Until Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Freedom of Choice

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Nyx in the House of Night

Freedom of Choice

by Jeri Smith-Ready

It’s not easy being the Chosen One. Just ask Buffy Summers. Ask Harry
Potter. And ask Zoey Redbird, the latest in this list of “lucky” candidates picked
by fate to save the world from darkness–and oh yeah, find romance, keep their
friends, and maybe not flunk every class. In their spare time, of course.

You’d think the act of getting chosen would be the biggest hurdle of all.
Once you know you’re The One, every choice should be easy. Simply “do the
right thing,” and the rest will follow. After all, you were chosen for a reason,
so you must be destined to succeed, right?

Alas, destiny isn’t a straight, well-paved road. Sometimes it’s not even a
rocky, overgrown bike path. All the signs point in different directions, and
half of them aren’t even in English (they might be in another language–or

Available Until Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

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