Books·The First Page

The Lost Boy of Niihau by Jasjeet Bacheer

The Lost Boy of Niihau by Jasjeet Bacheer is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge of 2022.

2022 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Jasjeet Bacheer, 13, is a finalist in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge 2022. (Submitted by Jasjeet Bacheer)

The Lost Boy of Niihau by Jasjeet Bacheer is one of 13 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 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 will be selected by bestselling YA writer Sarah Raughley and be announced on May 31.

Bacheer, 13, a student at Viola Desmond Public School in Milton, Ont., writes about war and conflict.


Times were darker than the smoky wings of the vanished ravens. I snuck into the sinister headquarters, desperate to find my birth and medical records. The drab room smelled of sweet honey, yet the building's secrets were far from pleasant. I suspected the records could tell me more about myself than anyone could. I looked through the tattered yellow folders until I found my answer. As I gazed at the picture of the young boy smiling back at me, a familiar sensation surfaced, a throbbing in my temples that nearly made me faint. My chip was malfunctioning. Yet, it struck me differently today. My body stiffened as I experienced the shock of my life. Memories flooded back to me. Even so, I couldn't comprehend them.

"Ariitaia, please don't listen to the Manawaʻino," the woman said weakly.

Upon sight of the stranger I imagined to be my mother, my lips quivered, and my eyes stung with heavy rain, yet I suppressed my tears and maintained the glazed eyes and blank face. After all, emotions had been strictly prohibited. Feelings that could evoke anger or sorrow were long banished.

"Ariitaia," I fumbled upon the letters, realizing it was my name. A sense of self radiated through my body.

"Ariitaia," I fumbled upon the letters, realizing it was my name. A sense of self radiated through my body.

For many decades on Earth, we saw remorseless war and conflict. Lives were lost, countless families were fractured. The privilege to have opinions of your own became destructive for humanity.

Ruthlessness spread through the world like wildfire, devouring everyone in its path. The Manawaʻino, more commonly known as the "trusted leaders," decided that through advanced chips and gene editing, making everyone look, act, and think alike was vital to combat this danger. The wealthy left for Venus, oblivious to the pain that awaited the others.

As I peered out the stained window, I saw the crowd of people, each one having the same emerald eyes, flawless pale skin and ruler-straight lips, parted midway to reveal pearly teeth. Each carried an identical gait, straightforward diction, and was living the same story.

I thought to myself, what was the point of drawing a landscape when all the crayons were white? Humanity had lost its unique qualities and had become a strain of robots programmed to mimic others. My chip had resumed operation. I was one of them now; I was Liam.


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 historical novel The Bones of Ruinfor 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, Orca Books, Groundwood Books and Simon & Schuster for donating books for the prize.

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