Books·The First Page

The Greater Good by Abby Robitaille

Read the first page of Abby Robitaille's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 winner: Grades 10 to 12 category

Abby Robitaille is the 2017 winner of the The First Page student writing challenge in the Grades 10 to 12 category. (Courtesy of Abby Robitaille)

The Greater Good by Abby Robitaille is the winner of 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.

Robitaille, a student at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville, Ont., tackles oppressive dictatorships and censorship of the press in her piece.

"The beauty of running a benevolent dictatorship, is that benevolent is a relative term."

Roman Lythe stared at us audience members, the luckiest 50 teens in the Continent, and I realized he was waiting for us to laugh. 

"Such wisdom! Such candour!" I heard someone shriek, loud enough to overpower the faint doubt haunting their voice. I nodded along, forcing a laugh. Not that laughter ever really came naturally. 

It was surreal, being here. I had researched everyone in this room. I even had my personal guesses about who would last. This program was notorious for starting with 50 and ending with five. I glanced at the head in front of me, one of the few redheads. It might be Calliope Germaine. She was ruthlessly smart, but she wouldn't last long. She didn't come from an affluent village and it was just hard to believe she would be taken seriously. Still, she might make a good ally. Anyone in this room would be a good ally, if they had made it this far. Teens who had clawed their way to the top of their schools and villages, all in hopes of getting into this program. To be trained on how to rule the Continent by Roman Lythe. 

More of a divine figure then a politician, Roman Lythe was what held this Continent together. He had overthrown the democracies that had once formed the Continent. He had taken away all the disarray by making all decisions himself. He knew what he was doing, so the people didn't have to. No one was forced to understand what was happening on either planet. If anything was urgent, it would be posted, sent as an alert directly from Roman. 

In fact, based on these notifications, he was improving everything! Tithes were increasing, which meant more money for the government, which was more money spent on the people. Brilliant! Not to mention all the military victories we'd had. 

So we all gathered around Roman now, leaning forward, waiting to memorize every word. 

"Now why do I say this?" Roman asked, savouring our undivided attention. "I say benevolent is a relative term because I can redefine benevolent to be whatever I want. The beauty of power! So people think I'm peaceful if I say I'm more peaceful than the other Continents; or more fair, or more just. You understand?"

I didn't.

Listen to the winner announcement on q:

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.