Books·The First Page

Interdependent by Katie Yu

Katie Yu, 14, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2020 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Katie Yu, 14, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Katie Yu)

Interdependent by Katie Yu is one of 10 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 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.

Yu, a student at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, writes about climate change and mass extinction.

I was optimistic about Earth before becoming a biologist. When I woke up this morning, I strapped on my boots and stepped out of the Ranger, onto the scorching hot sands that were littered with microplastics. Me and my mission partner, Aria, came here to save and collect the last organisms on Earth for research. We trekked through the deserted landscape for hours, and just when we felt really lost, Cooper, our service bot, got startled by the harsh crackling of flames and ran off. We could tell he didn't have much experience on Earth yet.

"Do you think he'll be all right?" asked Aria. I knew that what she really wanted to ask was if we'd be able to find him at all, but I couldn't answer that either, it was unpredictable here. To make matters worse, we only had 48 hours left to look for him and any other animals before returning to the Red Planet.

I began to feel the temperature rise, there wasn't much oxygen, but flames still ravaged the terrain from time to time. Fortunately, we knew that if you wanted to conduct research in the dry regions, you had to become a firefighter too. Before we left, Cooper informed us that the climate had warmed by three degrees Celsius since our last trip. As I walked, my mind wandered off into a daydream of Earth's history.

Humans left for Mars decades ago, yet our impact still resulted in a chain reaction of death and degradation.

Before the Holocene, this planet was bursting with life, everyone loved the plants and animals, but not enough to prevent another mass extinction. Humans left for Mars decades ago, yet our impact still resulted in a chain reaction of death and degradation. It was heartbreaking whenever species went extinct, but it would be even more so if we died looking for the life that survived. We had to keep searching. Cooper was here somewhere, where on Earth did he go?

Just then, I realized that Aria had disappeared, too. Great. We were supposed to find the last species on Earth, not get lost here! Would I have to go back to Mars alone and empty-handed? Feeling hopeless, I trudged through the desert until I heard a tiny squawking noise. I kept walking, and when I climbed over what seemed like the hundredth sand dune of the day, I saw Aria, kneeling on the ground with something furry quivering in her hands.

"I think you'll want to see this."

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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