Books·The First Page

Wishful Breeze by Isabel Porter

Wishful Breeze by Isabel Porter is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge of 2023.

2023 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

A portrait of a teenage girl with light brown hair looking into the camera.
Isabel Porter is a finalist for the 2023 First page Student Writing Challenge in the Grades 7 to 9 category. (Submitted by Isabel Porter)

Wishful Breeze by Isabel Porter is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 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.

Porter, 12, a student at Swansea Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto, writes about the effects of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Hearing the brrrring sounds of an alarm clock, she knew. Slowly pulling up her niqab along with her hijab, counting her breaths. She pressed her hand against the cold metal of a doorknob, and slowly with a slight twist of her wrist, the door opened and moonlight swam through. A delicate smile graced Aaina's lips. Slowly, she stuck her head out of the front door. The miraculous smile grew on her dark features at the sight of an empty street. Nothing but a glistening moon and a wishful breeze.

Aaina started her trek, the road crunched beneath her feet. Keeping a steady pace, she never slowed. Not when she heard a loud plea, nor when she heard the screams of Americans, and certainly never slowed down when she heard her mother tongue.

Aaina's palms started to become sticky with sweat, nervous tremors overtook the young girl's body, and the beautiful smile that once graced this wretched city vanished and was replaced with a fearful expression.

But her pace didn't slow. She wouldn't let it.

No one but soldiers and the unfortunate people in their grasp would be up at such an absurd hour. The early breeze hit Aaina's eyes. Her eyes. The only place where moonlight could reach her.

Nothing looked alive anymore. Not even the people. The city and its people reeked of neglect. Aaina strode through her city, Her home. She starred in the broken windows of stores, she saw the posters and the restrictions written upon them.

Women here were dolls. Aaina knew it, and the countless generations before her knew it. The monsters would dress them up, use them as they pleased. The monsters also liked to throw tantrums, in which they would kick, drag, throw and break their dolls.

The thought always sent a chilling sensation down Aaina's spine.

The loud noises in the distance grew closer. Without realizing it, Aaina's steps became more rapid.

Turning away from the main road, her pulse raced. It will be okay. Horrors awaited anyone like her on the main road. Wrapping her arms around herself as if it was the only thing stopping her from breaking apart on the side of the road.

Despite the chilling breeze, screams of the unfortunate and her country in shambles, her chin never faltered. Aaina held it high.

No one would ever see the screaming little girl inside.

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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