Books·The First Page

Biodome E231 by Schuyler Siewe

Schuyler Siewe, 16, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2019 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Schuyler Siewe, 16, is a 2019 finalist in the Grades 10 to 12 category for The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Schuyler Siewe)

Biodome E231 by Schuyler Siewe is one of 10 stories shortlisted for the The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 category. 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. Nearly 2,000 students submitted their stories.

Siewe, a student at Western Canada High School in Calgary, imagines a world where climate change has deepened class divides.

I stood outside Biodome E231 with fear creeping over my skin, my half-reflection in the dome's glassy surface telling me I looked just as terrified as I felt. I closed my eyes and forced myself to unfurl my left hand. I'd been clutching the fake ID in my fist so tightly I was surprised I hadn't drawn blood. Carefully rearranging my features into the pleasantly detached expression worn by all Insiders, I joined the lineup of people waiting to get in.

This was only my second time seeing a Biodome up close, the first being when I was first allowed out of my family's shelter alone — like all young Outsiders, I'd immediately headed straight to the nearest dome. The Biodomes had been created just five years earlier — small-scale societies designed to imitate the pre-Environmental Crisis earth, free from the Outside's scorching heat, deadly superstorms, floods, unbreathable air and overpopulation. Only the very wealthy could afford to live in them, my best friend Felicity's family among them. I remember in sharp detail the day Felicity left, an uncharacteristically defeated slouch in her shoulders. "Find me," she'd whispered. I'd only nodded, not trusting myself to speak.

Inside-Outside conflict was at an all-time high, with rebel Outside groups promising an approaching uprising.

I had to keep that promise, and this would be my last chance. Inside-Outside conflict was at an all-time high, with rebel Outside groups promising an approaching uprising. Such a conflict could only end in war or immediate defeat. If I was going to see Felicity again, it had to be now.

Realizing with a start that I had reached the front of the line, I stepped forward and stretched a politely indifferent smile across my lips. The peacekeeper smiled back, but it didn't mask the suspicion glinting in his eyes as I launched into my planned explanation. "I was just collecting some air samples," I said in the sing-songy cadence of an Insider, pulling down my mask with a cough as if I wasn't used to the way Outside air tore at my lungs. "You know, for my Environmental Engineering class." There was a whisper of hesitation as the peacekeeper scanned the ID, but he stepped aside and let me through nonetheless. For the first time, I pulled down my OxyMask and breathed freely. I could've just stood there at the dome's entrance, staring up at a blue sky and clouds, fake as they may be, but I kept walking. I had a promise to keep.

About The First Page student writing challenge

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2168. 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.

Kelley Armstrong is the bestselling author of more than 40 books. (Kathryn Hollinrake)

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 YA author Kelley Armstrong, most known for her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series. The winner will be announced on CBC Books on March 11, 2020.

  • Read all the 2019 The First Page finalists' stories here

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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