Books·The First Page

Where the Abandoned Things Go by Ashley Levine

Where the Abandoned Things Go by Ashley Levine is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge.

2023 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

A portrait of a teenage girl with dark hair and glasses smiling into the camera.
Ashley Levine is a finalist in the First Page Student Writing Challenge in the Grades 10-12 category. (Submitted by Ashley Levine)

Where the Abandoned Things Go by Ashley Levine is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 category for 2023.

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 1,200 students submitted their stories.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada. The winners will be selected by bestselling YA writer Courtney Summers and be announced on May 31.

Levine, 15, a student at Anderson Collegiate Vocational Institute in Whitby, Ont., writes about overconsumption.

It is Saturday morning, April 1st, and D0UG's owner has left him.

He takes a tentative step forward. Maybe his owner simply forgot him? Or maybe it's some sort of joke? There is a tradition on April 1st where humans play tricks on each other, but Tom would never do that, would he? Besides, being dumped into a pile of scrap metal is hardly a funny prank.

Tom has already started walking away. He still hasn't said anything. D0UG whines, races to catch up to his owner, but Tom pushes him back. "Stay, D0UG," he commands. His voice betrays no emotion other than annoyance.

D0UG, unable to disobey a direct order, sits wedged behind a crate, barking frantically. The world feels as though it's caving in on itself. D0UG was created specifically for his owner. Every gear, every line of code, every meticulous touch of paint — Tom was the glue holding him together, the reason why he was more than a simple machine.

Without Tom, what is D0UG?

The sky rumbles and the clouds weep. He can't stay outside long in this rain, his joints will begin to rust. D0UG continues barking until Tom finally whips around. "I'm not coming back. Can you just stop?" He lets out an exasperated sigh, and his gaze softens. "Look, D0UG, I love you, but I need something different. You're already three years old. I need..." His voice trails off, then speaks with newfound enthusiasm. "Tell you what, why don't we play a game of fetch?"

D0UG nods, rhythmic thuds clanking against the scrap as he wags his tail. Tom fishes through his pockets for a wadded up ball of paper, then tosses it with all his might. The ball arcs in the air before falling into a pile of old electronics.

D0UG leaps in chase, throwing aside the discarded devices. He scoops the paper in his mouth, and with it, a bit of hope. Sure, D0UG's limbs creak, and he can be easily outpaced by newer models, but that doesn't matter. Despite his imperfections, he is Tom's, after all.

D0UG turns, ecstatic, to show Tom how capable he is at catching a ball, and what a good boy he is.

But Tom is gone.

It takes a moment for the realization to fully settle into D0UG's bones.

Tom is gone and D0UG is rusting in the rain.

About The First Page student writing challenge

A cartoon astronaut with a laser sword bursting out of a book and flying through space with her cat.
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 2173. 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 Courtney Summers. 

Summers has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult literature, the 2019 Odyssey Award and the 2020 Forest of Reading White Pine Award. Her 2021 book The Project won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Young Adult novel.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada:

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2023.

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.

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