Books·The First Page

Shelf Life by Sobin Lim

Sobin Lim, 17, 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

Sobin Lim, 17, is a 2019 finalist in the Grades 10 to 12 category for The First Page student writing challenge (Submitted by Sobin Lim)

Shelf Life by Sobin Lim 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.

Lim, a student at Port Moody Secondary School in Coquitlam, B.C., writes about the subjugation of women's sexuality in the wake of technological advancement.


The Companion is born inside of a casket. She is designed to charge inside of her capsule, reminiscent of the popular collectable boxes that held holiday dolls before the terraforming of space. It's genius. The perfect combination of nostalgia and convenience catered towards Earth and Space Babies alike. Cecil Morton is honoured, of course, to be invited as the guest speaker at the annual Banquet for Technology Pioneers. This year, the event is held in the Tranquility Room of Cecil's personal low orbit space station.

"They're all my children in a sense," Cecil says when asked about the creative process behind the new product. "Each one is special. Customizable. You have your Rita Hayworth's and Grace Kelly's. Exotic girls too. Whatever you desire!"

On either side of him are dozens of monitors facing the auditorium. A beam of light from the largest projector is superimposed onto Cecil's face in a wash of translucent colour. They're showing a montage of The Companion in a swimsuit, an apron, a spacesuit. The room booms with laughter at the last one.

"I'd like to introduce you to The Companion!" Cecil announces at the end of the montage, spreading his arms wide. The curtain behind him splits open to reveal a girl, blonde and blushing, her posture held straight. She stays at a distance until Cecil urges her to step forward, hand outstretched for her to clasp. The room leans forward in anticipation.

They're showing a montage of The Companion in a swimsuit, an apron, a spacesuit. The room booms with laughter at the last one.

"Say hello, darling."

The girl stares at the room, eyes unnervingly wide as if she is unable to discern the difference between the individual man to the living conglomerate of suits that inhabit the auditorium, ever-growing and expanding with each passing minute.

"So much clutter — all this code," are her first words, voice tinged with sadness as it kisses the stagnant air. "And so empty."

A moment of silence fills the room with the deafening quality of an unregistered joke. A bead of sweat slips down Cecil's brow.

And then — an uproar of applause.


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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