Books·The First Page

The Girl Who Stole the Light by Kyla Kijewski

Read the first page of Kyla Kijewski's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Kyla Kijewski is a 2017 finalist for The First Page student writing challenge. (Courtesy of Kyla Kijewski)

The Girl Who Stole the Light by Kyla Kijewski 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 entered this challenge.

Kijewski, a student at Individual Learning Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon, tackles climate change in her piece.

A long time ago, "until the Earth stops turning" meant "forever." But the world didn't end. In 2154, Earth's revolutions began to slow down; days and nights stretched out into weeks, then into months, until in 2156, night finally fell upon North America. And day break never came. The Earth, having dutifully done its job for billions of years, stopped. 

I was only a toddler then, but they tell me it was only a few months before everything died. Without light, the plants stopped growing, and now, so many years later, only moths and bats live. I walk where the old forest used to grow, here in Holburg. The old skeletons of cedars, bark peeling off, glow a faint gray-brown in the light of my headlamp. Along the dark river, I get to the place where, when I was nine, I carved my name into a trunk, and the letters are still just barely visible, beneath the moss. Raven. I smile as I think of the old legend that my mother named me after. Clouds covering the sky move, revealing a bright moon. I switch off my headlamp and walk home among long shadows. Amid the few living things that still remain, our people exist. Nuclear power and windmills power the lights that brighten our roads, our homes, our greenhouses. It's the only light I know. 

Europe and Africa fared better. It's always day. Birds singing, plants growing and light still shining on eight billion faces. Only the unfortunates weren't able to board the ships to evacuate to the Bright World. The rest of us live in darkness... at least we have the stars. I wipe the fungus off my shoes before going home. I can hear an old Ensiferum CD my grandmother is playing, something about candour and lies. My mother is busy making dinner with my brother Darious, self-proclaimed chef, as I sneak past the kitchen. Scents of oregano and baked eel follow me as I climb the pull-out stairs to the roof. To the west, on the horizon of the undulating Pacific Ocean, is a thin line of russet sky. Dusk. Somewhere beyond is the light, and Japan, the land of the setting sun; but with the light, comes the civil wars of Bright World. With so many people in one place, it was only a matter of time. My parents say we're better off here, despite everything.

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.