Joshua Zhuang and Victor Li win The First Page student writing challenge
CBC Books asked Canadian students to imagine how present-day trends have played out in the year 2172
Toronto's Joshua Zhuang, 15, and Mississauga, Ont.'s Victor Li, 15, have won The 2022 First Page student writing challenge, a national speculative fiction writing competition for Grades 7 to 12 students in Canada.
CBC Books asked Canadian students to imagine how present-day trends and issues — from climate change to artificial intelligence and factory farming — have played out in the year 2172.
The 21 finalists and two eventual winners were chosen from over 1,800 entries submitted in the winter of 2022 — 1,309 entries were collected from the Grades 7 to 9 category and 530 entries from the Grades 10 to 12 category.
Bestselling YA writer Sarah Raughley selected the winners from two shortlists curated by a team of writers across Canada.
"This in media res beginning explodes with tension from the first word, drawing the reader in immediately," said Raughley.
"We're introduced to characters and their dilemma from the start. With only a few words, the author not only strongly conveys the conflict but also adeptly builds an emotional connection between the characters and readers, forcing us into the characters' shoes as we attempt an escape along with them.
This is a story that forces us to think critically about immigration and displacement- Sarah Raughley
"Most importantly, while the escape attempt does not go as planned, we're left knowing that the plot is far from over. This is a story that forces us to think critically about immigration and displacement. Who does Canada's dominant society consider to be 'Canadian' and worthy of the full gamut of rights as citizens? And who do we criminalize as 'Other'?"
Victor Li is a student at The Woodlands Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont. in the Grades 10 to 12 category. His story, Still Water, imagines a futuristic world which shows the effects of pollution on our lakes and oceans.
"Lakes and bodies of water have always been a place of peace for me, and the emotional core of this piece is grounded in that idea. I think that despite whatever happens in the future, people will still try to find solace in whatever nature exists. The image of two kids playing alone in a lake of garbage pushes this concept into a tangible scene, and is what I think makes this story interesting. " Li told CBC Books.
"With clear and clean writing, the author introduces us to the beginnings of a coming-of-age story in a world that's suffered an environmental collapse," said Raughley.
"Evocative language and smart dialogue paint a picture of the cost of climate change on our planet's sources of water. Once luscious lakes have been transformed into toxic landfills. The innocence of the protagonists' voices, still young as they wonder if fish that eat garbage is edible, drives home the price children will pay for the older generation's mistakes. With poetic flare, the author leaves the door open for a much larger story of self-discovery."
Evocative language and smart dialogue paint a picture of the cost of climate change on our planet's sources of water.- Sarah Raughley
Both winners will receive one year of OwlCrate, a monthly book subscription service, and 50 books for each of their school libraries.
Special thanks to publishers Penguin Random House, Raincoast Books, Scholastic Canada, Annick Press, KidsCan Press, Groundwood Books, Orca Books and Simon & Schuster for donating books for the prize.
You can read both the winning stories, as well as all the finalists, below.
Grades 7 to 9 category finalists
- The Lost Boy of Niihau by Jasjeet Bacheer, 13, from Milton, Ont.
- Farmed by Glen Chen, 14, from Thornhill, Ont.
- Death of a Tree by Denise Howatt, 13, from Manitou, Man.
- A Postcard from the Past by Esmé La Lusis, 13, from Toronto
- Filtered by Ashley Levine, 14, from Whitby, Ont.
- Life After the End by Ashley Levine, 14, from Whitby, Ont.
- The Collector by Ashley Levine, 14, from Whitby, Ont.
- My Fault by Ariadni Lianidaki, 15, from Brossard, Que.
- The Concluder's Apprentice by Esmé Mac, 13, from Vancouver
- Grayscale by Anna Pan, 14, from Richmond Hill, Ont.
- Engineer 294 by Anna Ryde, 14, from Toronto
- Embers by Tracy Wang, 15, from Vancouver
- Fugees by Joshua Zhuang, 15, from Toronto
Grades 10 to 12 category finalists
- Milk by Lillian Snell, 17, from Toronto
- Bottom Feeders by Victor Li, 15, from Mississauga, Ont.
- Still Water by Victor Li, 15, from Mississauga, Ont.
- An Arm And A Leg by Mya Metivier, 16, from Charlottetown
- Reminder: You Are Dreaming by Mira Peregud, 18, from Vancouver
- Solastalgia by Sofiyah Shariff, 16, from Edmonton
- The Deciding by Linden Shi, 14, from Vancouver
- Tegenaria Incorporated by Amelie Snowdon, 16, from Edmonton
- Red-Brick by Jack Trott-McDermott, 15, from London, Ont.
- Survival of the Efficient by Asher Vanden Enden, 17, from Toronto
- A Modern Failing Romance by Vivian Zhi, 17, from Markham, Ont.