Books·The First Page

Life After the End by Ashley Levine

Life After the End 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)

Life After the End 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 environmental decline.


The world doesn't end in fire.

There's no dramatic clash, no explosion that obliterates the earth, no cinematic blast that erupts in blazing reds and oranges, echoing throughout the universe.

No.

Rather, it ends in ice. A slow, gruelling fate, almost kind in its cruelty.

Because as your feet freeze to the ground, your lips as blue as a summer's day, your mind is still much alive. Your eyes are still darting around, watching as the world becomes an eternal winter. You're frozen in a crystal of time, in this frigid in-between where Death will caress your cheek if you stick your neck out too far.

Darina pulls the curtains open, snapping me out of my melancholy. I peer outside. The sun is muted, like a match dwindling to a spark. It's beautiful, almost, staining the skies with twinkling pinks and oranges, the final ballad in a sea of symphonies. It's become a tradition for Darina to gaze out the window every morning, even though she knows what she'll find. I'm not sure why she does it. Maybe she takes comfort in the last bits of beauty left outside. Or maybe it's the hope of seeing something new that keeps pulling her back. Either way, she stares outside with a wistful smile playing on her lips before pulling her attention to me.

Maybe she takes comfort in the last bits of beauty left outside. Or maybe it's the hope of seeing something new that keeps pulling her back.

"It's lovely today," she sighs.

"It is. I just wish that it was warmer so we could go outside."

She smiles — that mischievous grin that I've grown so used to. "Who says we can't?"

Darina wraps me in about a hundred layers of clothing and pulls me outside with a laugh. As she balances some chairs on the frost, my gaze wanders. The houses lining our street are buried beneath thick sheets of ice and snow. In the distance, an enormous glacier looms ominously. You can still see the echoes of life — a toy truck buried in the frozen dirt, a frayed scarf caught on a branch. Barely anyone lives here anymore. After the second Ice Age, most people moved to Mars. Not us, though. I'm not allowed to leave, and Darina? Well, Darina tends to see the beauty in everything, even in a frozen, abandoned planet.

Even in a criminal sentenced to life on Earth.

"You coming?" She calls, her voice carving wisps in the bitter air.

I grin. "Until hell freezes over."


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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