Books·The First Page

A Whole New World Alvin Chen

A Whole New World Alvin Chen is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge.

2023 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

A portrait of a teenage boy with black hair looking into the camera.
Alvin Chen is a finalist in the 2023 First Page Student Writing Challenge in the Grades 7 to 9 category. (Submitted by Alvin Chen)

A Whole New World by Alvin Chen is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 category for 2023.

Students across Canada wrote the first page of a novel set 150 years in the future, imagining how a current-day trend or issue has played out. More than 1,200 students submitted their stories.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada. The winners will be selected by bestselling YA writer Courtney Summers and be announced on May 31.

Chen, 15, a student at Port Moody Secondary School in Coquitlam, B.C., writes about overpopulation and jobs being taken by robots.

February 2, 2173

The blare of the alarm over the loudspeaker pulled Alan out of sleep. As he lay on top of his bed, a cold gust of air blasted into his room, forcing him to curl even tighter into his blanket.

"Today's the day," Alan mumbled to himself, a slow smile spreading across his face as he opened his eyes. The grade he got today would determine the rest of his life.

Suddenly excited, he jumped out of his bed a second later and sprinted towards his wardrobe. He yanked on the handles, revealing a single spotless white uniform.

There was no need to have more than one, as the clothes never got dirty or pungent. The invention of self-cleaning clothes had revolutionized the world of laundry many years before.

"Today's the day!" he whispered, glancing at the clock and tugged on his outfit. He thought back to the test he'd taken the day before, the one that would tell him his future job.

"ALL GRADE 12S MUST REPORT TO THE GYM!" a robotic voice screamed.

He took the government issued capsule which lay on top of his bamboo tabletop and popped it into his mouth, a nauseous look on his face.

He grimaced. "I will never get used to that metallic taste." He hoped one day that he would be able to eat real food, but that was only for the wealthy. Capsules were meal replacements for people like his family.

Alan bolted out of the door and ran towards the gym. As he was running, a machine-like voice roared across the entire school.


Alan sneaked into the auditorium undetected and found his chair in what seemed like a sea of people, stretching for miles. Biting his nails, he waited for his turn. He had to get one hundred in order to stay on earth. He felt bad for Isaac who would be flown off the overpopulated Earth and onto another unknown planet, just like anyone else who didn't score 100.


He stood up from his chair and slowly walked onto the stage with big wet stains evident underneath his armpits.


Losing consciousness, he slipped out of his seat and fell to the floor with a dull thud.

About The First Page student writing challenge

A cartoon astronaut with a laser sword bursting out of a book and flying through space with her cat.
The First Page student writing challenge asks students in Grades 7 to 12 to write the first page of a novel from 150 years in the future. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2173. They wrote the first page of a book set 150 years in the future, with the protagonist facing an issue that's topical today and set the scene for how it's all playing out in a century and a half.

Two winning entries — one from the Grades 7 to 9 category and one from the Grades 10 to 12 category — will be chosen by bestselling author Courtney Summers. 

Summers has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult literature, the 2019 Odyssey Award and the 2020 Forest of Reading White Pine Award. Her 2021 book The Project won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Young Adult novel.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada:

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2023.

Both winners will receive a one-year subscription to OwlCrate, which sends fresh boxes of books to young readers across Canada on a monthly basis. In addition, each of the winners' schools will receive 50 free YA books.

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