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Final Draft

Review

Final Draft

After I closed the back cover of FINAL DRAFT by Riley Redgate, I knew that not only was it one of my favorite novels I’ve had the privilege of reading this year but it may be the novel I’ve been waiting a long time to read.

FINAL DRAFT is about Laila Piedra, a young writer who has a few major loves (obsessions?) in her life: a cult TV show, “The Rest,” a book series, After the Path, and her own attempts at writing space epics. Along with her friends, Laila has a comfortable life in a magnet school where her only worries are making sure she keeps her grades up so she can get off the waitlist and into Bowdin College, her dream school.

When her favorite writing teacher and mentor is replaced after a horrible accident, Laila must confront her own anxieties about writing and the things that she’s swept aside in favor of focusing all her attention on writing.

"I loved Laila’s journey. I felt that not only was it realistic but necessary, creating a standout novel that I hope will be read widely and discussed for its brilliance and heart."

One of the reasons I love this book so much is that it doesn’t shy away from talk of anxiety, identity and sexuality. Laila struggles in this book and it was so refreshing to read that struggle because it felt so real. I think any teenage reader --- especially one in those transitional periods of junior and senior year --- might relate to the pressure that Laila puts on herself and the way her carefully constructed control spirals until she’s unrecognizable to not only her friends but herself. As Laila finds rock bottom, young adults might even find some hope in the way the support she seeks and find in her parents and friends. I personally loved her friend group and would have been content with more appearances from Leo, Felix and Hannah. In addition to Laila, I was so impressed with the way that Riley Redgate created such wonderful side-characters, as realistically diverse as you might see in a New York City school and also so well-rounded that I didn’t feel as if they were side-characters at all.

I know that I could have used a novel about anxiety and pressure when I was a teen, especially at a time when I thought everything hinged on what school I got into and how well I did on my schoolwork and writing. Young writers and aspiring writers might even find the scenes where Laila struggles to mine thoughtful imagery and characters from her mostly ordinary life not only relatable but helpful. The character of Nadiya Nazarenko, a lofty award-winning novelist who deigns to teach high school students, is an interesting addition, foiling an otherwise soft and lovely character of her solitary fan and reader, Mr. Madison. One might believe Nazarenko to be the main antagonist in the book but I see the conflict stem from what the teacher exposes in Laila and not the character herself. She sheds light on the anxiety that Laila tries to escape in the form of science fiction television and books with high stakes and exciting premises and ultimately helps Laila confront it and make peace with it.

All in all, I loved Laila’s journey. I felt that not only was it realistic but necessary, creating a standout novel that I hope will be read widely and discussed for its brilliance and heart.

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on June 28, 2018

Final Draft
by Riley Redgate