Title: Final Draft
Author: Riley Redgate
Pages: 272 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Review copy: Library
Availability: Available now!
Summary: 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. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Review: Riley Redgate is one of those authors who is always full of surprises. Redgate’s books have all (so far) been contemporary YA, but they span a range of settings and issues, and I never know what to expect — in the best possible way. They make me think, cry, and ship. I loved Seven Ways We Lie and Noteworthy, and I’m happy to report that Final Draft is another book I’m adding to my favorites list.
Final Draft is just what it sounds like, a book all about reading and writing and what it means to be a writer. The book follows Laila, a dedicated sci-fi writer who spends more time in her fictional words than in the real world. When her adorably affirmative creative writing teacher is replaced by a no-nonsense, brutally honest Pulitzer-winning author, Laila’s identity as a writer is flipped upside down. She must come to terms with who she is, what truly matters to her, and who she loves.
As someone whose day job is writing and side aspirations are also, well, writing, I’m certainly biased when I say that I connected really hard to a lot of Laila’s struggles to improve her writing and, more importantly, come to understand herself. Along the way, she faces the looming uncertainty of college applications, falls in love, and grapples with her mental health and grief. Yes, I cried. My initial review of this book was ‘I ended up crying. I didn’t sign up for this.’
Through the whole book, I was rooting for Laila to figure out her writing and who she loved. Part of Laila’s journey includes embracing her pansexuality, along with being biracial. The romance was not a major part of the book (or it might have been, depending on how you read it), but I loved every moment of it.
So if you love reading about writing, or you just want an excellent queer romance, or a book that’ll make you cry, Final Draft is the book for you. I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve read and loved Redgate’s previous works.
Recommendation: Buy it now!