Published by Amulet Books on June 12, 2018
Goodreads • Amazon
The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he's suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed. At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Anyone who knows me knows that I consider Riley Redgate one of my very favorite authors. When I found out she was writing a YA contemporary about a writer? Color me intrigued. While Final Draft had its moments of brilliance, overall, the story felt a bit too all over the place for my taste.
I’ll start with the thing I loved most about this book: the representation. Our main character, Laila, is biracial (half Ecuadorian and half French-Canadian), plus-sized, and pansexual. She also deals with a depressive episode that was some of the very best depression rep I’ve read in any book. Laila’s thoughts about all of the identities she holds felt so authentic. I loved these more introspective moments, and I think Final Draft contains excellent discussion on sexuality, racial identity as a mixed-race person, and mental illness. I really appreciated the pansexual representation because although Laila knows she is attracted to people of all genders, she represses her feelings about attraction and sex and therefore never really comes out to herself until this book. She’s not questioning her sexuality, but she is coming to terms with it, which I understood so deeply based on my own experiences as a queer person.
Laila’s writing played less of a role in this story than I expected. It still is a central part of the plot, and the book includes excerpts of Laila’s writing periodically throughout. The writing is more of a tool to show how Laila’s life experiences are impacting her, if that makes sense. To me, this overall felt like a friendship story more than anything else. It’s about Laila coming into herself and processing changes in her life, and often her friends are the ones helping her through these changes. Speaking of which, I enjoyed both the friendships and the romantic relationship in Final Draft! I have to admit, I didn’t see this particular romantic relationship coming, but I ended up liking it. (And yes, I am happy to say Final Draft contains an f/f romance!)
My main issue with this book is the fact that I really don’t know what exactly it was about, or what my takeaway from it should be (not that books need to provide education! they can be purely entertainment. however, it felt like Redgate wanted to say something with Final Draft; I just don’t know what.) The focus of the story constantly shifted, and the transitions between chapters as well as the ending were all kind of choppy and abrupt. It made for an extremely disorienting reading experience, one I haven’t ever had before. Plus, the story focuses so heavily on Laila’s growth, but it’s written in third-person. It kept unnecessary distance between Laila and the reader; I never felt like I truly got to know her as a character. The whole book was just… all over the place? I don’t know.
Overall, I do think this book is worth the read, if for nothing else than the excellent representation. If you like Redgate’s writing, it’s worth a shot, but be forewarned that it’s told in a much more experimental style than her previous books.
Have you read Final Draft? If so, what was your reading experience like? If not, do you plan to read it?