Books·The First Page

The Galaxy Rover by Elessia Cantara

Read the first page of Elessia Cantara's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Elessia Cantara is a finalist for the 2017 The First Page student writing challenge in the Grades 10 to 12 category. (Courtesy of Elessia Cantara)

The Galaxy Rover by Elessia Cantara is one of 10 stories shortlisted for CBC Books' 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. Over 2,400 students submitted their stories.

Cantara, a student at Laurier Macdonald High School in Montreal, Que., tackles pollution and flooding in her piece.

When I was younger, I would reach forward and press my tiny hands against the cool window of The Galaxy Rover, hoping that if I'd focus hard enough, one of the millions of stars floating around the ship would melt through the thick glass, and fall into my palm. 

Though I knew it was impossible, their blinding light, bold compared to the darkness of the void, was bright enough to tempt me into wishing that perhaps one night I'd come across a star that was magnetized to me. Even from within the spacecraft, they'd move their way through the galaxy and manage to get to me. 

"What do you think a star feels like?" I once asked my older brother, Lucas, who stood behind me with his arms folded to his chest. "Like, if you could hold one."

His dark eyebrows raised and a frown appeared on his thin lips. Fourteen at the time, and five years older than me, he seemed to hold himself on a pedestal that he claimed he rightfully deserved by being oldest. 

I knew he wouldn't answer my question. He never did. But I asked him anyways. I knew he liked remembering he had an imagination. Though it was dusty and webbed away in the depths of his head, it was there, flickering and struggling to keep up with the vibrancy of mine. 

"I think they'd feel a little cold," I answered, my eyes glued to the window, focused on the stars that flew past us as The Galaxy Rover moved through the void. "And they'd tickle, too. Maybe they'd vibrate in our hands or even—"

"That imagination of yours never seems to slow," Father interrupted, entering the room. His black hair was wet from the shower, and he had circles under his eyes that were deep and defined. Being an engineer on The Galaxy Rover was draining. 

I shook my head harshly, and he chuckled.

"When I was your age, not long before boarding the Rover, I'd stare out at the sky from Earth, wondering what the stars looked like from up close." He had a distant look in his eyes. He always did when he spoke about Earth. 

Earth; where we were all meant to be, yet where none of us were at all. Earth; destroyed by the selfishness and corruption of my species. Earth; now turned entirely to water. Earth; gone.

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.