Books·The First Page

The Test for Humanity by Henna Cho

Read the first page of Henna Cho's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Henna Cho is a finalist for the 2017 The First Page student writing challenge in the Grades 7 to 9 category. (Courtesy of Henna Cho)

The Test for Humanity by Henna Cho is one of 10 stories shortlisted for CBC Books' The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 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.

Cho, a student at William D. Pratt School in Calgary, Alta., tackles overpopulation in her piece.

"I can do this," I say to myself. I look into the mirror of the girls lavatory. My hair looked like it was a fire that was just set a flame, my eyes the colour of the sky and as piercing as usual. 

"You can do this," I try to convince myself. 

Inhale... exhale… I can do this. I walk outside of the washroom and begin to go down the hallway, towards "The Final Test" ordinance.

I enter the enormous metal room, filled with hundreds of 17 year olds and there are no signs of their family members, since the government didn't allow them to come to the ordinance. I find my seat, labeled Andrea Clark, fifth seat from the front. It takes about 10 minutes for everyone to find their seats. When the last person finally sits down, the Administrator walks out on the stage. She was young for a new administrator, in her twenties. But she still had a few wisps of white in her chocolate brown hair, cut right above her shoulders.

"Hello, fellow students of the third sector. I hope the best of you will pass The Final Test," she said in a very monotone voice.

"Many of you know why you are taking this test, but to hopefully fuel up your spirits to succeed, I shall explain."

I silently groaned. Everyone in this room already knew why we were doing this, they couldn't have been more specific. 

"In 2100, the world's supply of food, water and space was dwindling. Then a man named, Robert J. Wolf found a way to decrease the population in the best way possible. Sixty-seven years later we are still following the tradition, making our problems now miniscule, and only the best of people are left."

After that I couldn't hear anything, only my heart thumping loudly in my chest. I lost track of time.

"Andrea Clark, will you please rise and go down the blue lighted pathway," she instructed.

I did what she ordered, but then… I didn't mean to, but I looked back. I saw a room filled with anxious teenagers, hoping they are worthy enough for society, but mostly for the government. While I turned back and walked down the hall. I tried not to think that this was the last day that I felt warmth.

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 free YA books.

CBC Books' next student writing competition is the Shakespeare Selfie Student Writing Challenge, which will open in April 2018.