Books·The First Page

Rebellion by Alex Chen

Alex Chen, 14, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2019 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Alex Chen, 14, is a 2019 finalist in the Grades 10 to 12 category for The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Alex Chen)

Rebellion by Alex Chen is one of 10 stories shortlisted for the The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 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. Nearly 2,000 students submitted their stories.

Chen, a student at the University Transition Program in Vancouver, writes about a future where democracy is corrupt and communication is censored. 

Tyranny is when people fear the government. A vote should mean a voice; democracy should imply change.

Thirty two years have now passed since the Installation. I look beside me to my niece, lying asleep in her favourite bouncy chair, her arms aloft and her eyes soundly shut. I wonder what her interpretation of the world will be, travelling alongside me; the Tribulations, a storm catalyzed by decades of environmental ignorance took her mother away years ago in an unstoppable onslaught. I love her. I know she does too.

I feel a tap on my shoulder. Graham, in a swift gesture, points out to the street below us, pulling apart the curtains of our humble apartment. Wordlessly, he taps the window, and motions for silence. A line of people stand outside, crowding the road, all awaiting entry into the Permissions Embassy. They wanted to buy words.

Sharp yells start drifting into my ears.

"Move faster! Can't you dirtbags walk a little faster? I have a life!" a lady's shrieks float past us.

A line of people stand outside, crowding the road, all awaiting entry into the Permissions Embassy. They wanted to buy words.

I see Graham make a face; I reply with a shake of my head, having no other form of communication. It is surprising that lady on the street could speak at all.

After the puppet government took power, they sought to make money from everyone. Their battle against climate change has been ruthless, sparing only the most powerful and rich cities. Of what the vast ocean did not engulf, the hungry authorities took. We would have been better underwater.

The government then put a tax on speech, only allowing us to speak common, low class words. The only way to talk more — to get a larger vocabulary — would be to buy word packages at the Permissions Embassy. The authorities monitored everything there; prejudice against the common has never been stronger.

That woman outdoors must have bought one of these packages to impress her employers. What she didn't know was that it was easy to see through her word facade.

Closing the curtain, I sighed, leaving my thoughts. Seeing that was enough.

I signaled Graham over to the computer in the back of our complex. He nodded. Today was the day. Walking over to give my niece a last kiss, I turned and sat on the uneven floor, facing two green lines splattered on a black screen. Our hack was complete — we got into the embassy.

Word Acquired:

About The First Page student writing challenge

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2168. 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.

Kelley Armstrong is the bestselling author of more than 40 books. (Kathryn Hollinrake)

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 YA author Kelley Armstrong, most known for her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series. The winner will be announced on CBC Books on March 11, 2020.

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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