Free Smart Pop YA Essay:The Dangerous Dead

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Dangerous Dead

by John Edgar Browning

Reading the House of Night series is very much akin to reading Zoey’s favorite book, Dracula (1897), for like Bram Stoker’s novel, one will find also in the House of Night’s pages the subtle mingling of folklore and reality with popular fiction. It will probably come as little surprise to readers out there to learn that, when it comes to its vampyres, the House of Night is steeped in all three. However, which parts are “fiction” and which are “reality” may come as a shock and, in some cases, may even seem implausible.

Folklore has almost as many variations on the vampire as there are vampire films (at least 700 of which, or more, belong to Dracula or his semblance alone), and more often than not the two are confused for one another.

The House of Night series, and the various associations it conjures up, is no exception to this. However, the series’ treatment of the vampire mythology is surprisingly faithful to the folklore, …

Available Until Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

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Through the Wardrobe

Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

by Deb Caletti

When I was in the sixth grade, I loaned my copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Lisa Miller and never got it back. Not that I hold a grudge. Lisa had a surgery that required breaking both her legs and resetting them, putting her in a wheelchair for the good part of a year. Flimsy excuse, yes? I mean, this was my beloved and cherished copy, part of the ENTIRE SET of the Chronicles of Narnia that my parents had given me for Christmas when I was ten. An entire set of Narnia books without The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe–it’s like an entire set of dishes without the, well, dishes.

I still remember getting those books. For some reason, my mother had hidden them, unwrapped, inside a set of decorative drums that were underneath the Christmas tree. One day I was messing around, as …

Available Until Friday, March 22nd, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay:My Dragon, Myself

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

My Dragon, Myself

by Kelly McClymer

Confession time: I love dragons, and have since the first time I heard of the mythical creatures who liked to kidnap princesses and test the princes who would rescue them. Only the best, bravest, smartest–smartest was always the key–could beat the evil, ravening, blazing beasts and free the princess. This appealed to me, maybe because I loved to doodle and the only recognizable thing I could doodle was a princess: billowing triangulation for a base, round head with long flowing hair, stick arms, and a pair of slippers peeping out under the skirt. Easy peasy. I must have doodled a million princesses in my time in school. Occasionally I’d try a dragon (theoretically a snake with scales and wings, right?). But my artistic talent was limited, so I always went back to princesses.

I can’t remember when I first learned about dragons, but I recall they were all vicious, cranky creatures …

Available Until Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Waking Up the Trees

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Through the Wardrobe

Waking Up the Trees

by Susan Juby

The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained.

–Henry Beston

The just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam

–William Blake

The way I read him, C. S. Lewis was a tree-hugger. He was a don at Oxford and very dignified, so he probably skipped the tie-dye and the patchouli incense, but his Chronicles of Narnia, and especially Prince Caspian, suggest that he was as green as any modern day eco-freak. Prince Caspian can be seen as the fantasy equivalent of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth: it shows us that we human beings can become more responsible citizens of the planet Earth, if only we face the facts about the effects we have on our environment and let ourselves get a little closer …

Available Until Thursday, March 14th, 2019

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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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