Books·The First Page

Subjects by Alexa Loo

Read the first page of Alexa Loo's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Alexa Loo is a finalist for the 2017 The First Page student writing challenge in the grades 7 to 9 category. (Courtesy of Alexa Loo)

Subjects by Alexa Loo is one of 10 stories shortlisted for CBC Books' The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 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. Over 2,400 students submitted their stories.

Loo, a student at Semiahmoo Secondary School in White Rock, B.C., tackles animal testing in her piece.

Day 6209 

The lights are blinding. I can barely see because of the glare. 

They're all talking to each other. Jotting down notes as they stare at me. I can't hear them, but I know that the conversation is about me. I fix my eyes on Bea. It's the name I've given to the leader. My eyes lock on her, completely focused. I want to make her uncomfortable, make her feel as exposed as she's made me. I try, but I can't break her. 

Defeat. My life's been a series of defeats. Every day I attempt to break free. From the cage. From Bea. From the lab, but I've never achieved anything. My sad existence only fuels their idea of humans being weak, useless creatures. 

My thoughts are brought to halt as one of the trins raises their hand. I know what this means. "No," I plead. "No I can't do it. Stop. Stop!" It's no use; they can't hear me through the glass, not that they would care. 

My eyes look to the top of my cage as smoke the colour of wine beings to fill inside. I'm screaming. After all these years it still shakes me. The smog fills me. I can feel it crawling into my mouth, then my lungs and stomach. 

Everything goes blurry. I collapse and the hard, cold cement catches my fall. 

Moments later, I finally have enough strength to pull myself up. The trins' eyes are only on their notes. How many failed tests will I have to suffer though before they give up? I'm furious. My core is heated with anger. I'm tired of being treated like an animal. 

Once again I scream, except this time it's not a sound of fear, it's one of hate. I bang my fist against the glass. Once. Twice. One more time. I slam my arm against the cage, and let out a grunt. Drained. I lean my head against the wall. 

I've got the trins attention. A small sound whips my head to the spot where the cage was struck. A crack begins to form, growing by the second. Alarms sound but I block it out. I look around until the enclosure entirely collapses to the ground. 

I'm free.

About The First Page student writing challenge

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2167. 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 award-winning YA writer Erin Bow, author of The Scorpion Rules. The winner will be announced on CBC Radio's q on Jan. 24, 2018.

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 YA books.

CBC Books' next student writing competition is the Shakespeare Selfie Student Writing Challenge, which will open in April 2018.