Books·The First Page

Survival of the Efficient by Asher Vanden Enden

Survival of the Efficient by Asher Vanden Enden is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge of 2022.

2022 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Asher Vanden Enden, 17, is a finalist in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Asher Vanden Enden)

Survival of the Efficient by Asher Vanden Enden is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 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, to be selected by bestselling YA writer Sarah Raughley, will be announced on May 31.

Vanden Enden, 17, a student from Rosedale Heights School of the Arts in Toronto, writes about capitalism.


She should have been enjoying the sunset that night. Instead, looking up into the sky's shameless vermillion, Portia grasped at the sensations she had once experienced.

It had been three hours since the efficiency procedure.

She strolled along her favourite section of the lake. As the smell of the water pervaded the air, Portia knew she could always rely on the contentment of this location.

Not any more.

The sun's moment of glory had now passed. Portia's family had never approved the efficiency procedure, and she had been grappling with these conflicting thoughts for months.

Not any more.

After all, she couldn't care less about her family or friends. They meant nothing to her. These emotions had been taken from her.

She needed something to eat.

Food: the succulent juice of a freshly bitten apple and relishing in the tang of the gooseberries collected from the bush behind her first home. Since the surveillance had grown more precise, she could only imagine these sensations. She hoped that she would be able to bring them into her reality one day.

Food: the succulent juice of a freshly bitten apple and relishing in the tang of the gooseberries collected from the bush behind her first home.

"Momma, why do we always gotta have potato soup? I'm so hungry, I want more!"

Portia had grown up looking at pictures of her ancestors enjoying many meals before the day everything had changed. The Envisionment. Since then, her family tree lived on the scraps of those who had chosen more advantageous traits. As she grew older, she began to imagine that being emotionless might not be so terrible, as long as she could feel the sensation of a warm, full stomach.

Portia walked into Avarus et Turpis, an expensive bakery. She had no idea what the name meant, but she could see that the store was full of high-profile customers and immediately entered. Portia began to stare past the display glass and at the most giant, plump slice of strawberry shortcake she had ever seen. With her newfound currency, Motus points, she purchased the entire cake. She sat and began to choke down chunks of it. She could see people like herself: cold, pale, and zombie-like. Portia belonged in this place. As she was beginning to look back at the display case, she noticed a strange texture in her mouth. When she pulled the rough object out, she saw that it was a wet paper note.

"Pig."


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 novel The Bones of Ruin for 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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