Books·The First Page

Jane Doe by Mackenzie Greene

Jane Doe by Mackenzie Greene is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge.

2023 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

A portrait of a teenage girl with dark hair smiling at the camera.
Mackenzie Greene is a finalist for the 2023 First Page Student Writing Challenge in the Grades 7 to 9 category. (Submitted by Mackenzie Greene)

Jane Doe by Mackenzie Greene is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 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.

Greene, 13, a student at King Edward School in Toronto, writes about the increase of femicide.


Jane Doe, they'll call me when they find my body lifeless, washed up on the beach like trash.

Limbs splayed out and eyes glassy and unfocused.

Jane Doe, they'll call me when they deem my case not important enough.

Jane Doe, they'll call me when no one steps up to identify me.

I'm telling you now my name is Julia Franklin. My favourite colour is purple, I love pineapple on pizza and my favourite band is Queen.

I was 14 when a man took my life. I was 14 when I was dumped into the murky ocean waters. I would have been 15 the day I was found with blue lips and cold, cracked skin. Alone, dead, far away from home.

Jane Doe is what is written on my headstone. My parents cry, never knowing if they found me.

I would have been 16 by the time the second body was found. Unrecognizable, crushed against the rocky shore and the roaring waves.

Jane Doe, she is named. Dumped next to me, two of a kind. Her name was Emmeline Gray. She was only 13. The third comes shortly after. Jane Doe.

No one thinks twice about it this time. They have much more important things to do than to catch whoever did this. She is the youngest, 10 years old. Her name was Delilah Smith. Her parents wept for weeks when no one contacted them on the finding of their youngest daughter.

In the ground a line has begun to form. Three kids, three girls with bright futures. No one does anything. The fourth one is no surprise anymore. She was 14 like me. Jammy Phillips. A lost cause they called us. Whoever was doing this would have to stop sometime.

The bodies piled as they looked the other way.

The Jane Does they called us. "The unlucky ones" they whisper as they walk past our graves.

No tears shed by our loved ones at our funerals. No loved ones at our funerals. It has been months since the last body.

Hopeful girls hold each other's hands and tell themselves it's over. It'll never be over for us.

Jane Doe is what they call the 11-year-old girl that escaped. Her name is Tracy Grace. They call her crazy when she tells them how she escaped. They try to shut her up, stop her from disrupting their peace.


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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