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Choices by Jasmin Hasselkuss

Choices by Jasmin Hasselkuss is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge.

2023 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

A portrait of a teenage girl with blonde hair smirking into the camera.
Jasmin Hasselkuss is a finalist for the 2023 First Page Student Writing Challenge in the Grades 10-12 category. (Submitted by Jasmin Hasselkuss)

Choices by Jasmin Hasselkuss is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 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.

Hasselkuss, 16, a student at Lakefield College School in Lakefield, Ont., writes about designer babies. 

I never knew there were so many shades of blue! Cobalt blue, lapis lazuli, sapphire blue, vivid cerulean, Persian blue, steel blue and, of course, baby blue. This is going to be a lot more challenging than I thought.

I scroll through the screen again, pausing at each blue tone and then contemplating the image that appears. I smile at the chubby cheeks and the gorgeous big, round eyes that gaze at me. The colour of the eyes shifts through each blue tone as I move through the list.

"Having trouble deciding, Miss?" My doctor's assistant grins as she walks up. "Personally, I love steel blue. Looks amazing on my son, Jake. But don't get stuck on the eye colour, honey, 'cause you've got so many other traits to choose. You'll be here all day!"

She winks at me and starts to walk away. We both hear some commotion and voices outside.

"Ugh, not these protesters again today," she moans.

I walk over to the window and peer down onto the sidewalk. A cluster of people have formed by the entrance of the clinic. One woman holds a sign that says "Children are NOT commodities!" A man yells, "Say no to designer babies!" An older couple holds a banner together that reads "Genetic Engineering Has Gone TOO FAR."

I suddenly feel goosebumps forming on my arms and I shiver. My stomach rolls and I feel a bit queasy. I back away from the window wondering if I made the right choice coming here.

But that's just it. It was my choice. We get to customize everything else in life. We pick and choose exactly what we want and we get it on demand. Why should my baby be different? I don't want to depend on a genetic lottery. I don't want my child to be dictated by chance.

Sensing my uncertainty, my doctor's assistant gently places her hand on my shoulder. "You get to choose your baby. And I know with all my heart you will love your child. Now why don't I show you all the available skin tones?"

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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