Books·The First Page

The Deciding by Linden Shi

The Deciding by Linden Shi is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge of 2022.

2022 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Linden Shi, 14, is a finalist in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Linden Shi)

The Deciding by Linden Shi 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.

Shi, 14, a student from University Transition Program in Vancouver, writes about technology.


The rooms were full of dreamers. Their pleasure was invisible, of course: barring parasomnia, one cannot tell what a sleeping person is experiencing. The dreamers slept in pods from which they would never emerge alive; they had chosen a life of virtual pleasure on their own accord. The rooms were sterile white and blue; carefully preserved dioramas.

The newest batch of the undecided would soon be choosing between the pods and the real world. Each year, a few undecided would immediately refuse the pods, yet more and more ended up disappearing into the pods. Though most of society had already adopted novel technologies of plastics and glasses and metals, the materials in the Deciding were a reminder of times past — wax, phosphorus and natural fibres.

Already relatives and friends of the undecided had gathered at a distance from the table. Eli fidgeted with a bit of their ceremonial robe, which was crimson so it wouldn't be green or blue — a colour of the real world and a colour of the pods. The undecided later exited the building in a line, then took their place in front of a candle — each of the proper size to burn for 24 hours.

The rooms were full of dreamers. Their pleasure was invisible, of course: barring parasomnia, one cannot tell what a sleeping person is experiencing.

"They choose on their own accord," Eli thought. "Their parents would have told them not to enter the pods, and yet some still choose to do so. On their own accord. Not mine."

"Eli, go."

"Hello all," Eli said, addressing everyone, then turned to the undecided. Everyone knew what was to come, but Eli was compelled to explain the conditions again.

"Light your candle if you would like to enter the pods," they said. "In the pods, you will experience a virtual reality that you may adjust to your pleasure and your biological needs will be taken care of — recall your little taste of the virtual reality during the tour. Once you enter the pods, you cannot communicate with the outside world and cannot leave without dying. Keep your candle lit for 24 continuous hours and you will enter the pods. You are free to douse the flame whenever you would like, should you choose not to enter the pods."

They paused to let the words sink in.

"Begin."

Eli flipped the hourglass over, which would last for 24 hours, and it began to hiss.


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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