Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Community in the Face of Tyranny

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Community in the Face of Tyranny

by Bree Despain

Being a tyrant is easy, really. All you have to do is take away people’s freedom. Many people in today’s society take certain liberties for granted: freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, free commerce, free press, and more simple freedoms such as travel and easy communication–all things that make a community strong and viable. But what if in one swift movement all of these liberties were taken away? That’s what the Capitol did to the districts of Panem. After the first unsuccessful rebellion of the districts against the Capitol seventy-five years ago, the Capitol retaliated by taking every measure it could to destroy the feeling of community within the districts and between the districts, controlling and isolating people in order to keep them from rebelling again.

The most literal meaning of community is “to give among each other.” Essentially, to share something amongst a group–whether that’s information (communication), goods, common goals, …

Available Until Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?

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A New Dawn

Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?

by Ellen Steiber

As Stephenie Meyer tells us, stories of vampires have been around for centuries and have appeared in almost every culture. Although it’s hard to make definitive statements about vampires, their history, or their lore, I think it’s safe to say that vampires were not originally conceived of as romantic heroes. They were threatening and tremendously creepy, monsters who caused fear and revulsion. They were a far cry from Meyer’s Cullen family, a clan of the undead who are so dazzlingly beautiful and good that when Bella seeks to give up her own mortality to join them, this reader’s first reaction was: You go, girl! Admittedly, that’s an oversimplification. Bella’s decision is complex, and Meyer provides all sorts of interesting conflicts and potential consequences. Still, the fact that Meyer makes the vampires and their lifestyle so alluring intrigued me. I couldn’t help wondering how vampires changed from revolting parasites to …

Available Until Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dear Aunt Charlotte

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A New Dawn

Dear Aunt Charlotte

by Cassandra Clare

Dear Aunt Charlotte,

I have a feeling this is going to be a very unusual sort of letter. You see my problem isn’t a real problem; it’s fictional. I’ve always been the sort of girl who gets far too obsessed with books, and right now I’m obsessed with the Twilight series. You may have heard of it–it’s the story of Bella, a teenage girl forced to choose between two wonderful guys: her best friend Jacob and her boyfriend Edward.

Edward is romantic and wonderful and says things like, “Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night.” He even wanted to pay for her to go to college. Jacob is kind and strong and capable of total devotion. There’s something else I should mention: Edward is a vampire, and Jacob is a werewolf, so of course for a long time they hated each other, and not just because of Bella. Even …

Available Until Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Missing the Point

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Through the Wardrobe

Missing the Point

by Sarah Beth Durst

Remember Bambi? Cute deer. Cute bunny. Cute skunk. Very scary forest fire. Very traumatic death of Bambi’s mother. . . . Yeah, I don’t actually remember that last part. Seriously, when I saw Bambi, I didn’t realize that his mother died. I thought that Bambi’s parents were simply divorced and now it was time for his dad to have custody. Later, I was the kid in high school English who argued that Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” wasn’t about suicide. I thought it was a very nice poem about a pretty New England forest like the one behind my house, which was quite lovely, dark, and deep. So as you might imagine, I was also the kid who totally missed all the religious symbolism in the Narnia books.

But I still loved the books.

Why? Why do these books hold such sway over the hearts and imagination of …

Available Until Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

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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 Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

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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, February 19th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Shadowhunters and Downworlders

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Introduction: Shadowhunters and Downworlders

by Cassandra Clare

There’s a question that every writer both is intimately familiar with and dreads having to answer. Where did you get the idea for your books?

It’s not because it’s a bad question. It’s a fair question to ask, and it’s not as if we don’t understand why we get asked it–of course people are curious about the genesis of an idea! But the truth is it’s very rare that any book or series of books grows out of one single idea. Usually it grows the way a rolling stone gathers moss or the grit in an oyster adds layers until it’s a pearl. It begins with the seed of an idea, an image or a concept, and then grows from there as the writer adds characters, ideas they love, bits and pieces of their fascinations and interests, until they’ve created a world.

I’ve told the story of “how I got the idea …

Available Until Thursday, February 13th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Immortality and Its Discontents

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Immortality and Its Discontents

by Kelly Link

Holly: When we sat down to talk about this essay, it happened to be in a room where Cassandra Clare was hard at work on her next book. We thought we would just have the conversation in front of her and see if she wanted to pitch in.

Kelly: It seemed appropriate, since this is often the way that the three of us work: Everyone doing their own writing, and stopping when necessary to discuss a plot point or read what someone else is working on and make suggestions.

So. Why do young adults (and for young adults, let’s go ahead and make it all readers) like books, like Cassandra Clare’s, about immortal beings like vampires and faeries?

Holly: Well, I remember as a teenager being constantly told that I was going to change. That every time I dyed my hair blue or declared my love for a particular band …

Available Until Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Not Even the Gods Are Perfect

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Demigods and Monsters

Not Even the Gods Are Perfect

by Elizabeth E. Wein

Maybe your brain is hardwired to read Ancient Greek. Maybe you’re struggling to read this book. You wish it was in an alphabet you recognized. You wish the words didn’t look like brainteaser puzzles.

It’s far more likely that if you’re reading this, reading comes easy to you. Maybe you look at the kid in your class with learning disabilities and you think, “Must be stupid–he can barely read.”

Maybe you feel sorry for him. Maybe you’re interested in finding out more, but you’re shy and embarrassed and avoid making eye contact or talking to him, because he’s so different and you don’t know what it’s like and you don’t want to say the wrong thing.

Maybe you make fun of him. Maybe behind his back, so he won’t know.

Maybe to his face. “Hey, here’s a hard one for you, what’s two plus two?” It’s got nothing to do with reading, but it’ll …

Available Until Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: More Than Just a Broken Line

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Flirtin' with the Monster

More Than Just a Broken Line

by Susan Hart Lindquist

These days, when talking about why a book “works” one can’t simply take into account the compelling story or the beauty of the writing. Today, part of what makes a book work is its ability to connect with an audience. To become a bestseller. To stay in print.

For some authors, this has turned the game of publishing into a psychological tug of war between the desire to remain true to one’s creative vision and the need to consider what it takes to publish and, in turn, connect with readers. Do I want to write “for me” or must I write “for them”? How can I choose? How can I do both? If I write “for them” will I be selling
out? 
It’s a conundrum to be sure, and I confess, at times

I’ve been torn by these questions. Perhaps that’s why I was skeptical when Ellen first told me about the young adult novel she was writing. “It’s about my daughter’s …

Available Until Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

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