Books

Everything We Want by Natalia Koss

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

2020 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Natalia Koss, 16, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Natalia Koss)

Everything We Want by Natalia Koss is one of 10 stories shortlisted for 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. More than 2,000 students submitted their stories.

Natalia Koss, 16, a student at Lord Byng Secondary in Vancouver, writes about capitalism and class division. 


It took Devin a while to learn what the thunder was.

Snip, snip, snip.

When they were a child, their mother would take them, often, to one of the bunker's quieter spots, about 20 stairways down. The thunder was quieter there. Their hair was getting long, she'd say, too long, and it needed to be cut. She'd softly hum as she did, as their dark blonde hair fell in pieces onto the bunker floor, as the muffled pounding sounded, as it always did, above the two of them. It was far, far above. The thunder's always been quieter down there.

"Why can't I keep it long?" they'd asked, pouting.

"Sometimes things get too much to manage, dear," she'd absentmindedly replied. Snip, snip, snip. "It's why we cut your hair. It's why we rid the place of spiders when there's an infestation. It's why we don't let the thunder in."

"And why you don't let me out."

"Don't take it personally, Devin." She ran a hand through their hair. "No one leaves. That's so no one gets in. And…?"

Devin sighed. "And we have everything we want."

The sky was always black down there, dark and sick and wracked with thunder. They'd heard stories of what it must've been like before: blue, pink, gold, ever-shifting. Down there, nothing ever changed.

They'd heard stories of what it must've been like before: blue, pink, gold, ever-shifting. Down there, nothing ever changed.

"Why do we have to stay?" Devin had asked, naive and young and small and quiet. Snip, snip, snip.

"Here, I'll—" their mother cut herself off. She stumbled over her words for a bit, before saying, "I'll… tell you a story, okay?"

"Okay."

"Let's say there's a princess, and she lives in her tower, full of gold and jewels. She has everything she wants. And… well, the people below, in their huts and their villages, get jealous. She keeps her gold safe, away from the terror below, those jealous, greedy monsters."

"And then what does she do?" They'd asked, watching the pieces of their hair fall.

"She runs away, deep under the ground, away from their greedy hands."

"And she leaves all the people behind?"

"Well, they didn't deserve it. She'd earned all the gold she had, and they…" She laughed. "They were monsters."

"But why?"

"They were lazy. They were entitled. They were… only jealous, Devin. Because they have nothing. And we have…?"

"Everything we want."

It took a while for Devin to learn that the thunder was footsteps.


About The First Page student writing challenge

David A. Robertson is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning author and judge of the 2020 First Page student writing challenge. (Amber Green)

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2170. 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 award-winning author David A. Robertson

Robertson is a Cree writer from Winnipeg who writes books for readers of all ages — including the Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book, When We Were Alone and the Reckoner Rises graphic novel series.

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on April 16, 2021.

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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