Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Naturally Unnatural

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Mind-Rain

Naturally Unnatural

by Will Shetterly

Certainly nothing is unnatural that is not physically impossible.

–Richard Brinsley Sheridan

1. What are we?

In the Academy of Athens, Plato gave a famous definition of a human: “A featherless biped.” Everyone admired that until Diogenes of Sinope tossed a plucked chicken on the ground and said, “See, Plato’s human!” Plato quickly changed his definition to “A featherless biped–with broad nails.”

For centuries, that answer was as good as any. We had no choice in the matter. We were what nature made us: a mash-up of genetic material provided by a male and a female parent.

But what would we be if we could ignore nature and give ourselves feathers, four legs, or claws? Would we still be human? If what nature gives us is natural, would we become unnatural by changing ourselves? Would we become so different that we should be called nonhuman, ex-human, or formerly human? Might changing ourselves make …

Available Until Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

 Continue Reading “Naturally Unnatural”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Two Princes

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Mind-Rain

Two Princes

by Sarah Beth Durst

“How lucky is that?” Tally muttered to herself. “Sleeping Beauty with two princes. What was she supposed to do? Choose between David and Zane?”

–Pretties

David or Zane?

Who would you choose?

Who should Tally have chosen?

I think that one of the most awesome things about Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series is that it’s not obvious which guy is best for Tally. Okay, yeah, in the end, Tally’s best choice is the not-dead guy, but ignoring that tiny detail. . . . Both are decent guys. Both care about her, and she cares about both of them. And they like each other. It’s a true love triangle. Seriously bubbly.

But one of them must be her true Prince Charming, right? So which one? I have been giving this a lot of thought, and I’ve decided that the best way to judge them is to subject them both to the indignities of a boyfriend quiz, …

Available Until Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

 Continue Reading “Two Princes”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay:The Dangerous Dead

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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

 Continue Reading “The Dangerous Dead”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Waking Up the Trees

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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

 Continue Reading “Waking Up the Trees”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Best Friends for Never

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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

 Continue Reading “Best Friends for Never”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Team Katniss

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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

 Continue Reading “Team Katniss”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Percy Jackson and the Lords of Death

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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

 Continue Reading “Percy Jackson and the Lords of Death”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Panem et Circenses

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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

 Continue Reading “Panem et Circenses”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay:A New Eve

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Navigating the Golden Compass

A New Eve

by Dave Hodgson
Alongside the adventures, the love story, the battles and the fantasy, His Dark Materials holds a crucial prophecy: Lyra is to become the new Eve. This Eve’s purpose is not made fully clear, except that she should restore the Dust and begin to build a “Republic of Heaven.” But how will the members of this new republic behave? Like the previous regent of heaven who kept his predecessor alive in a box and those who endeavoured to destroy Dust, calling it “sin”? Clearly not. In fiction it’s easy to delineate between good and evil. At the end of The Amber Spyglass we’re left with the confidence that if Lyra succeeds she will begin a new direction for Homo sapiens: a new lifestyle that better values biodiversity, that harvests resources more sustainably and that acts unselfishly for the benefit of others. With these optimistic thoughts we can all retire to our normal …

Available Until Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

 Continue Reading “A New Eve”»

Stay Updated

Our Books

  • Latest Free Essays
  • Latest Contests
  • Latest Interviews
  • Latest Excerpts