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 Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Family Life in Panem

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The Panem Companion

Family Life in Panem

by V. Arrow
The most important things in Katniss’ life are survival and family, perhaps not in that order. The entire journey of the Hunger Games series begins because of Katniss’ devotion to Prim and her sense of duty to (and love for) family. However, as she tells the reader, “family devotion only goes so far for most people [in Panem] on reaping day.”THG31 A total of 1,776 children (73 Games — 24 tributes each, plus an additional 24 tributes in the Fiftieth Hunger Games) have been a part of the Hunger Games before Katniss volunteers in Prim’s place, and from the way Katniss tells it, very few–if any–have been spared their fate by family members before. Indeed, most of the nuclear families that we as readers encounter through the series are deeply dysfunctional and unhappy, and it’s hard to imagine them sacrificing so much for each other. What do we know about what …

Available Until Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

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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 …

Available Until Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Worshipping the Female Deity

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Nyx in the House of Night

Worshipping the Female Deity

by Christine Zika
Before I was P.C. Cast’s editor on her Goddess Summoning romances, I once worked with three female mystics on a self-help book for women. During one of our conversations, the authors pointed out that a lot of church rituals–burning incense, the use of flowers, and candle-lighting–had origins in Pagan and polytheistic traditions. Now, I’m Greek Orthodox, a branch of Christianity similar to Catholicism that is heavy on tradition, ritual, and symbolism. So while I take pride in my faith, I also take pride in my ethnic roots, which stretch back to the ancient Greeks and their beliefs in the gods and goddesses of Olympus. When I worked with P.C., I was always amused when she would call or write to me and address me as “Goddess Editor.” Each of the books in the Goddess Summoning series (Goddess of the Sea, Goddess of the Rose, Goddess of Love, etc.) revolved around an everyday woman who is transformed when …

Available Until Monday, July 29th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Ladies of the Night, Unite!

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Ladies of the Night, Unite!

by Jon Skovron

The Vampire Diaries is a perfect example of an age-old battle between opposites. Not Good and Evil, of course. Neither the book nor the show is so didactic as to portray any character as purely Good or purely Evil. No, I’m talking about that other age-old conflict: Boy Vampires vs. Girl Vampires. The conflict began a long time ago, in a place kind of far away . . .

The year was 1816. Many called it the “Year without a Summer” because of a series of strange weather events in northern Europe that extended the rains of spring straight into fall. The earnest young English physician John William Polidori found himself in a Gothic villa near Geneva with his good friend and frequent traveling companion, the poet Lord Byron, and guests Claire Clairmont, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Since they were forced to stay indoors by the …

Available Until Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay:The War of Light and Darkness

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Through the Wardrobe

The War of Light and Darkness

by Herbie Brennan
The Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-book tale of good versus evil–the age-old war of Light and Darkness. It’s a story you’ll also find in the Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, and many other fantasy novels–a heady brew of myth and magic, brave heroes, dark villains, mystic artifacts, and occult powers. But that’s all just fiction–right? You’d never get black magicians, mystic artifacts, and occult powers in the real world, would you? Well . . . The author of the Narnia chronicles, Clive Staples Lewis, fought in the First World War. He joined the British Army in 1917, and was commissioned an officer in the third Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. He fought at the Somme and was subsequently wounded during the Battle of Arras. He was forty years old when the Second World War broke out, a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. Just four years after the war ended, …

Available Until Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

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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, July 10th, 2019

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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 Monday, July 8th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay:Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

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A New Dawn

Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Romeo and Juliet nearly killed my GPA in high school. This is difficult for me to admit, being not only a literature geek, but a theater major. Shakespeare wrote some of the world’s most beautiful verse for those tragic lovers from Verona, but it took me a long time to understand why the play is a classic. What does this have to do with Stephenie Meyer’s compulsively readable, engrossingly gothic tale of Bella Swan and the vampire she loves? Well, Twilight is a little like Romeo and Juliet, except one of the pair is already dead. Meyer nods to this by opening New Moon with a quote from the play. Within the first chapter, Bella and Edward are discussing the similarities (sort of) between their relationship and that of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, and I’m patting myself on the back for my masterful insight. It’s the parallels to Shakespeare’s play that …

Available Until Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

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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 Monday, July 1st, 2019

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