Books·The First Page

Filtered by Ashley Levine

Filtered by Ashley Levine is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge of 2022.

2022 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Ashley Levine, 14, is a finalist in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge 2022. (Submitted by Ashley Levine)

Filtered by Ashley Levine is one of 13 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 category for 2022.

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 1,800 students submitted their stories.

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

Levine, 14, a student at Donald A. Wilson Secondary School in Whitby, Ont., writes about beauty standards.


When my mother first saw me, she screamed louder than I did. Used to this reaction, the doctor explained that this was what babies looked like before they put on the filters.

"It's hideous," my mother cringed. "It looks like a prune." 

"She'll look lovely in a moment," the doctor reassured. The doctor attached a band to my wrist and brought up a screen. She made slight adjustments until I was the picture-perfect child. Once she finished, my mother embraced me with coos of delight.

"There's my darling," she murmured. "Venus."

My mother always tells that story before my first day of school. Now, she ends it by stroking my caramel hair and chuckling, "Of course, Venus looks nothing like that thing anymore."

I sit there like a trophy, carving my lips into an emotionless smile. "I have to get ready now. Wouldn't want to be late."

In the privacy of my room, I pull up my customization screen. A miniature version of me pops up, and I fiddle with my appearance. I twist my hair into waves, smooth my skin, taper my waist. I sculpt myself a slim figure and a heart-shaped face. I filter away my flaws until all that rests is polished perfection.

I twist my hair into waves, smooth my skin, taper my waist. I sculpt myself a slim figure and a heart-shaped face. I filter away my flaws until all that rests is polished perfection.

My mother hands me my lunch when I come downstairs. Today, she wears an hourglass figure with wide scarlet eyes. "You look beautiful," she remarks.

Beautiful.

Uncertainty stirs within me when I hear that word. She's complimenting the false version of me, the one that I've scrubbed of all blemishes.

But is it even me anymore?

Despite my doubts, I mumble a thanks before gathering my things and leaving for school.

It's twelve when it happens. The wind howls, light flickering frantically, until —

Everything stops.

The lights go out and everything falls silent.

I try to turn on my wristband for some light, but it won't work. Other students try to activate their devices, but it's of no use.

Startled gasps echo throughout the room. I don't see why until I look up.

Our teacher has completely transformed. His filter is gone.

Does that mean that —

My thoughts are interrupted by a scream. The girl beside me gapes at herself in the window, her hair frizzy and wild.

I peek at my reflection in the window. And there she is, the person I've tried so hard to bury.

Me.


About The First Page student writing challenge

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 2172. 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 Sarah Raughley. 

A writer and lecturer from Southern Ontario, Raughley is the author of the YA Effigies series — which includes Fate of FlamesSiege of Shadows and Legacy of Light — and the fantasy historical novel The Bones of Ruinfor ages 14 and up.

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

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2022.

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. Special thanks to Penguin Random House, Raincoast Books, Scholastic Canada, Annick Press, KidsCan Press, Groundwood Books, Orca Books and Simon & Schuster for donating books for the prize.

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