Books·The First Page

The B-Shop by Alina Gao

The B-Shop by Alina Gao is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge.

2023 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

A portrait of a teenage girl with glasses looking into the camera.
Alina Gao is a finalist for the 2023 First Page Student Writing Challenge in the Grades 10-12 category. (Submitted by Alina Gao)

The B-Shop by Alina Gao is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 category for 2023.

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 1,200 students submitted their stories.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada. The winners will be selected by bestselling YA writer Courtney Summers and be announced on May 31.

Gao, 15, a student at Port Moody Secondary in Coquitlam, B.C., writes about economic inequality and toxic beauty standards.

The B-Shop was only for the elite of the elite; those that could afford the diamond-crusted comforts of life while the rest of society toiled fruitlessly in the grey confines of the city. Today was the first day I was going to The B-Shop with my mother and my heart pounded with excitement. Going to The B-Shop was a sort of ritual for girls my age and I couldn't wait to brag about it to my friends the next day. The sleek vehicle that transported us there from our lavish penthouse put screens in the windows to conceal the ugly outside world, so our eyes were spared from the burdensome view of the downcast society that sluggishly slaved at each day.

The B-Shop was a gleaming white pod in the middle of an oasis, shaped like an eyeball. When we stepped in through the blinking automatic doors, we were greeted by a calming, synthetic voice.

"Welcome to The B-Shop. How may I assist you today?"

"I'm here for my monthly appointment, and my daughter will be joining me today as well," my mother responded.

"Of course. Please wait to be relocated."

We were transported to our own private dark room and prompted to sit in chairs that were wrinkled like the inner folds of an ear, as humanoid robots stood at the door, waiting to assist us. Once I was comfortably in my seat, the voice chimed.

"We hope you enjoy your stay. To help us give you the best possible experience, please tell us what kind of face you are looking for today."

The immersive holographic screen began projecting various categories to choose from, flashing faces of all shapes and sizes. Next to me, my mother sighed contentedly and allowed her current face to be removed by the robot, revealing a sleek, white surface underneath, ready for a new face.

Though the first time would have been overwhelming for anyone else, I knew exactly what I wanted. The current trend was to have slender, upturned eyes, dark skin, a hooked nose, and narrow lips. All my life, I had been cursed with doe eyes, pale skin, a petite nose, and plump lips, so I was eager to finally fit in.

My soon-to-be-replaced eyes gleamed with excitement as I began scrolling through the options.

About The First Page student writing challenge

A cartoon astronaut with a laser sword bursting out of a book and flying through space with her cat.
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 2173. 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 Courtney Summers. 

Summers has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult literature, the 2019 Odyssey Award and the 2020 Forest of Reading White Pine Award. Her 2021 book The Project won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Young Adult novel.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada:

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2023.

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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