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Final Draft

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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.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published June 12, 2018

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Riley Redgate

4 books654 followers
allegedly human

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 505 reviews
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,093 reviews17.7k followers
July 21, 2023
This is one of those rare books that is an organic piece of life itself. It has been a full month since I read this book and I am still so shook by it and so invested and,,, oh my god. Guys, do not sleep on this. This is going on my preemptive top ten of the year and no one can stop me.

Okay, so now that I’ve stopped crying again, let’s get to why this book is so good. At its heart, I think this book is a perfect conveyment of what it is really like to be a teenage girl growing up in our current society and what it is like to struggle with yourself, to struggle with your friends right before you go to college. So for me - I am also beginning to deal with the college application process - there’s that sense of how personal this book is for me.

That’s one level to it, but there are so many more. Like, okay Final Draft stars a pansexual biracial Ecuadorian plus-size lead with anxiety. And listen, the way the narrative talks about Laila’s experience of being pansexual, of being biracial, of being Ecuadorian, of being plus size, of having anxiety: it’s all there and it’s all amazing. And if you relate to any single one of these things, or probably even if you've been a teenager before, you will get her.

The way Riley Redgate writes Laila is so… empathetic. I have never felt a character on the same level that I felt this character. Redgate will just make one passage at the end of a chapter focus on a specific part of Laila’s experience in the world, and suddenly you feel as if your life has been changed forever. Like that one chapter where Laila talks about how she was taught to be ashamed of sex and romance to the point where her pansexuality felt shameful, and it’s not even about her being queer, but about her being ashamed to feel at all - I felt that.

You know, I think integrating so many different discussions into the narrative could have made for a slightly all-over-the-place book, but it does not at all. Redgate knows exactly where to place her quotes and exactly how to compose the narrative so that every aspect of Laila’s life feels like an authentic part of a big picture and more importantly, a fundamental part of her character arc.

I don’t know how that’s possible. But... she did it?

This book is also about Laila falling in love with - it’s kind of a spoiler but I DON’T CARE I HAVE TO SCREAM - her best friend, Hannah, who is a Korean lesbian. And can I just scream for a minute because their romance is SO SUBTLE AND SO PERFECT. Oh my god, I spent the first 45% of the book thinking I was imagining it, maybe, but totally shipping them anyway. You do not understand. Hanna/Laila being canon is the best thing in my life and the only thing keeping me alive for the next year.

I've been struggling for a few months to figure out why this book made such an impact on me, and I've landed on this - there's a passage in that book where Laila talks about being pansexual, but not having considered it very much because she's been taught not to feel sexual attraction or even romantic attraction. her identity as a queer person has been tied up so much in her anxiety and her identity as a woman and as a woman of color and as a plus-size woman, and I just remember reading that on page and realizing that I'd never seen the experience of having different identities affect you in different ways on page.

Let me put it another way. Laila is just a fucking teenager living her life before college and thinking about losing her friends and living her future career and she's also dealing with her own identity, and none of that is there to be the Message. she is not there to be a message book, and she is not there to have everything fixed because that's not how life works. but she's there to grow and change as we all do, every day and every year, and she's there because girls like her exist. girls like us exist.

Listen, guys, this book made one of the biggest impacts on me of any book I read this year. I don’t remember the last time I read a YA contemporary so real, so in touch with the emotions and moods of every character. and a total masterpiece. I have no idea how ANYONE could write something this fantastic but I do know that this is one of the best books of 2018 and one of my absolute F A V E things I’ve read. I highlighted literally about half this book. I completely love this book. Please read it.

TW: anxiety, internalized ableism,

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Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews10.7k followers
January 18, 2023
Aspiring Science Fiction writer, Laila Piedro, is in her Senior year of high school. Her main focus is her creative writing class, taught by her favorite teacher, Mr. Madison.

He loves Laila's work and is quite encouraging regarding her future prospects as an author.

He is a Sci-Fi geek himself and they have bonded over the same books and television shows. Unfortunately, Mr. Madison is hospitalized after a horrible accident and cannot finish out the school year.

With just 3-months remaining until graduation, how bad can the substitute be?

Turns out, pretty bad. Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, gets selected to take over Mr. Madison's class. She has never been a teacher before and her methods are...

...not the best. The first time she grades the students stories everyone fails. Every. Single. Person.

Laila is shocked. She had never received a low grade in regards to her writing and is mystified by it? Mr. Madison loved her stories.

After a few chats where Nazarenko basically tells her she needs to live life in order to correctly write life, Laila takes this direction to heart and begins to actively try to shake herself out of her comfort zone.

She becomes fixated on gaining Nazarenko's approval and this leads to distance from her friend group and a string of risky decisions.

I picked this book up with the Dragons & Tea Book Club as the June 2019 pick. It had been sitting on my TBR since it was released, so I was excited to join in.

I enjoyed so much of the content, such as:

~ great family dynamic = wanted more
~ exploring sexuality = wanted more
~ squad goals/strong friendship group = wanted more
~ examination of identity/culture = wanted more
~ relationship with Hannah = wanted more
~ Laila's writing progress = wanted more

Do you see a theme?

While this was a good story, I wanted so much more of all the things!

Redgate has a smooth, intelligent way of writing, but this honestly could have been 100-pages longer. Anytime I was getting attached to a topic, it would end and we wouldn't really revisit it.

Even with Nazarenko, in the end, she just faded to black. It made the whole interaction seem inconsequential.

Maybe that was the point. It's high school creative writing; the real lessons were learned outside the classroom.

Overall, I am happy I read this and I would read more by Redgate. The writing is worth a second chance even though this one didn't blow me away.

Profile Image for may ➹.
494 reviews2,063 followers
October 9, 2018
soft slow-burn f/f romance featuring a fat pansexual biracial Ecuadorian WRITER and a snarky Korean lesbian???? you all are sleeping on this!!!
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,496 followers
September 18, 2018
This was such a highly anticipated book for me because I think Riley Redgate is, content-wise, one of the most interesting YA authors right now, and this did not disappoint. A book about a self-conscious author who loses her biggest fan and ends up with an instructor who effectively makes her feel like crap until she feels forced to bleed on the page to prove her authorial skill and worth? I mean. I can't speak for all authors, but that sure as hell held some resonance for me.

Laila was an interesting MC in a lot of ways. She's pansexual, or at least she would be if she wasn't raised to find sex and attraction shameful and so could bring herself to say the word aloud. (I realize that sounds like me projecting on her, but no, all of that, including the word, is on the page. And not, as we usually see it, mixed with questioning whether she's bi or pan; pansexual is her only consideration.) She's plus-size. (At no point does she call herself fat, so I won't either, but she does refer to wearing plus-size clothing.) She's biracial (French-Canadian on her mother's side; Ecuadorian on her father's side). She has three best friends who are her whole world. (I love adorable group friendship dynamics, especially when they're not all the same gender.) She's super into writing and a fandom. Basically there's a lot about her that I think is gonna be wildly relatable to people who haven't seen themselves much, which is something I always think is awesome.

Three books into Riley Redgate's catalog, I'm starting to notice a pattern wherein she discusses some things really, really well, but not seamlessly. Like, you'll get to the end of a chapter and it'll just be three pages dissecting something that's never really gonna show up again, but she talks about it so well that you don't care. So, I can't really say that themes of identity exploration are woven neatly throughout, but I can say that when you get those discussions, they're really welcome and great.

Did this book make me cry? Yes. Did it make me squee? Also yes. Am I going to recommend it annoying amounts? Absolutely.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews192 followers
June 13, 2019
Final Draft is a standalone contemporary book and the second novel I've read by Riley Redgate. I really liked Noteworthy last year because of the humor and the friendships, and this one was even better.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of this book is “realistic”. I can believe teenagers like Laila and her friends, with these problems and dreams and life, really exist. I almost felt like I was reading a part of someone else’s life. Contemporary books often fail at that – maybe the dialogues are too serious or lifeless, maybe the characters have no hobbies and spend all of their time trying to get a significant other, maybe the side characters have no personalities, maybe there’s no sense of setting – but this book had none of these problems.
Being able to relate to some aspects of this story also helped, in a way.

Final Draft is a story about perfectionism, about how anxiety influences your life and creativity as a writer. As I wrote fiction in the past, some of the things the narrator went through were close to some of my own experiences (but not exactly, as we don’t do creative fiction writing for school in Italy).
This book talked about an aspect of anxiety I had never seen in fiction before: what happens when the thing you did to escape spirals of negative thoughts becomes its source. When a hobby starts to become stressful, when even the thought of writing again fills you with dread. It’s not simply falling out of love with something, it's circumstances exacerbated by your anxiety suddenly ruining it for you.

I loved reading about Laila. One of the things I love the most about Redgate’s writing is the humor, and Laila’s narration was no exception. Also, this is a book about a pansexual biracial Ecuadorian plus-size girl with anxiety, and no, she didn’t feel like a walking checklist, not even for a moment.
This book talks about how all of these things affect Laila, but they are not the end of Laila’s characterization. (I also always like reading about characters who grew up in a Catholic environment but aren’t themselves, because that’s Italy for me).

While these things do influence Laila and the story, they are not the plot; Final Draft is mostly a book about how the pursuit of art isn’t worth your sanity.
I love this message. I feared this book wouldn’t go in that direction, that it would romanticize the “suffering artist” stereotype, but it didn’t and I’m so happy that wasn’t a thing here.

Another thing I loved was the romance. I’m so glad I’m finally finding five-star f/f book that end with the couple being together during these last few months. I loved Hannah’s abrasiveness and the chemistry this couple had. This is one of my favorite relationships I’ve read in 2018.
After too many f/f books in which the “abrasive” love interest was more on the “abusive” side featuring bullying and sabotage, Laila and Hannah’s relationship dynamic was so refreshing. (Hannah is a Korean lesbian, so this is also an f/f book in which both girls aren’t white).

I loved this book, but I’m not completely sure I want to recommend it: Final Draft is an echo chamber.
I have read many books about anxiety. This one hit very close, but there have been ones that were closer to my experience and far more intense – I'm talking about The Dark Beneath the Ice – that didn’t give me anxiety while I was reading. This was true to life and fun and beautiful but it was also such a heavy read that it took me more than a week to complete it, and it’s less than 300 pages. I prefer when books manage to go there without becoming almost unreadable.
I can’t exactly point out what about this book made it this way for me – maybe the fact that very little time is dedicated to recovery after more than two hundred pages of Laila’s mental health progressively worsening, when she seemed mostly ok in the beginning. It could be realistic and it’s probably a personal thing, but at the end of a book about mental illness, I don’t want to think that the main character was mentally better at the beginning.
Profile Image for joey (thoughts and afterthoughts).
139 reviews145 followers
Shelved as 'not-dnf-but-on-hold'
August 17, 2017
"sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed."

Profile Image for tappkalina.
666 reviews412 followers
August 22, 2021
I had this on my Scribd audiobook list as one of those books I wanted to get to somedays, but were not a priority. All I knew was that it's sapphic, has something to do with mental health and is about writing.

Today I needed something quick and easy I could listen to.

Quick it was. Easy it was not. It made me ugly cry and realize that maybe I'm still not that okay I thought I was.

A few days ago something happened and brought up a question in me: Could someone who had serious depression for years ever be fully "healed"? Because for me it was almost a decade that contained most of my childhood and growing up with that mentality I think it will always be a part of me. It feels so wrong to say or write it down, but it made me who I am. I literally can't remember who I was before. Who I could have been. And even if I'm not suicidal and do not live as a shadow of myself anymore, my worldview remained the same. It's just in a nicer package.

So could we ever fully recover, or is it like being an addict? Could we ever wash it away? Because saying I am better now doesn't mean I don't still live with those thoughts. I just don't have the same reaction to them.

But I have a new favorite book, so.
Profile Image for ambsreads.
656 reviews1,393 followers
July 29, 2018
Trigger Warnings: death, car accident, grief, depression, anxiety, underage drinking, drugs


Elise @ The Bookish Actress has Final Draft in her Twitter name, so obviously, it meant I had to pick it up. Elise is my #1 go to for f/f romance and she is yet to let me down. I’m not even sure how to begin describing Final Draft by Riley Redgate. Honestly, I am still mildly speechless and I finished the book yesterday (this review has been scheduled for a while, oops). Final Draft is a book that evokes so much emotion. The best way to describe it is that it is organic. It’s a strange word choice, but honestly, it fits so perfectly. This book has such a realistic look at life and teenage emotions. Riley Redgate doesn’t try to shove a perfect character at us. Instead, we have a flawed MC who struggles with her passion, writing. It is just so amazing (I really don’t have the right words for this) to see a character who isn’t perfect at everything and struggles. The character depth that the author manages to create throughout this pretty short novel also deserves to be noted.

Why should you read Final Draft though? Let’s get into the plot a little bit. This book follows a pansexual biracial Ecuadorian plus size with anxiety lead Laila. Laila is best described as a ‘good girl’. While all her friends are getting fake ID’s and sneaking into clubs at 18, taking drugs and simply living with a ‘who cares’ attitude Laila prefers to sit at home and write her story for her creative writing class. However, an unfortunate accident leaves her original teacher in the hospital (whom Laila loves) and brings in a best selling author to teach the students. Laila becomes obsessed with getting her approval and it leads to an honest look at a teenager experiencing things for the first time. There is also a bit of a romance sprinkled through the story as Laila discovers her sexuality, however, this definitely doesn’t feel as if it is the main focal point throughout this novel and that Riley Redgate chooses to focus on Laila’s teenage struggles a lot more.

Honestly, the plot is so beautifully woven and technical. I am truly struggling to find words in which will help describe it to its perfection. Final Draft does not feel as if it is one thing. It feels like several and they are all so beautifully done that I can’t help but scream at you to pick up this book.

Anyway, time to jump into my section of the review where I talk about what I did and didn’t like about the book.

what I liked

I said it in my ramble bit of this review, but this book is so fucking organic. There is such a beautiful and raw look at life it is shocking. I remember three years ago when I graduated high school struggling with the possibility of all my friends moving away for university and struggling with the choice myself, as well as not receiving the marks I had hoped for. The way Riley Redgate writes Laila in Final Draft is so spot on for most 18-year-olds about to hit this transitional period of their life.

Not only that, but there is the underlying theme of trying to prove yourself. I completely related to that and Laila’s struggles of not ‘fitting’ in with her friends. While all her friends were drinking, doing drugs, and going illegally to clubs she wasn’t interested in that. I was that way inclined during my final year of high school and my friends all thought I was whacky because I didn’t see drinking as the highlight of the week. I really just feel as if the author managed to make these feelings so damn relatable.


This isn’t a long book. It doesn’t even hit 300 pages. Yet, the author was able to include so much character depth in the short amount of time. Not a single character reads as one-dimensional and I was completely enthralled by each and every character backstory.


I mentioned earlier just how much representation there is with Laila (pansexual, biracial, Ecuadorian, plus size, anxiety). I can’t speak on a lot of the representations in this book as someone who is white and straight. I can speak about the anxiety though and how it spoke to me throughout the book. The author manages to pull the empathy from you subtly throughout the story and truly is such a raw and realistic look at being an anxious teen in high school.


Y’all know I love supportive friends and family, this is something that Final Draft delivered so fucking well. I can’t even begin to describe how (a common theme with this book) but it was something that was inspiring. The characters truly are all there for Laila during her hardest times and even though she rejects their help a lot of the time they don’t leave her and I think that is what YA books need.

Additionally, one of the friends ends up being the love interest and this may be spoilers but I don’t care that much. Because this was a beautiful f/f book that featured a Korean lesbian.

what I didn’t like

This is only a really mild complaint, but I feel that in some places of Final Draft the story could have been revised. It really felt as if there were so many emotions in certain parts that the story got a little cluttered. At times it also felt as if the author lost her thread of the story and took a page or two to get back on track. However, this really isn’t as noticeable as I may think it is. I think I was just looking for something to write in this section of my review.


This isn’t really a dislike. I just wanted to be lowkey funny. I just absolutely love when dogs are included in books and I feel that the dog in Final Draft didn’t get put in the spotlight enough.

Overall, read Final Draft. This book will break your heart and repair it simultaneously. I cried, I smiled, I gasped. It was a bloody whirlwind of emotions and I invite you to take it and tell me what you thought. This book was so in touch with teenagers and, just overall, emotion. I can’t scream about it enough.
Profile Image for fatma.
922 reviews649 followers
June 12, 2018
"When had she risked anything, really? She looked back through her life and saw a procession of schoolday routines, chores, conversational chatter. She felt like a witness to the massacre of all her time. For a horrible moment, she wondered if she'd only ever written science fiction to build an escape chute from her life's insistent monotone."


Thank you so much to ABRAMS Kids/Amulet Books for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!!!!!

riley redgate is a treasure and i loved this book so fucking much

where do i even begin

★ First of all, LAILA. Final Draft is one of the most introspective books I've read in a long time. It paints Laila's internal environment so vividly and so poignantly that her being a fully fleshed-out character becomes not so much a possibility as an inevitability. The result is a character that is nothing short of dynamic. Laila wants so fiercely, aches so candidly. She is an open book to you, but never comfortably so, never to the point of becoming predictable or easily definable. And so much of the book is about that, about becoming attuned to her experiences, feeling them as keenly as she does. And you do, and I did.

More than anything, Redgate renders vulnerability with so deft a hand in this novel. And its this unquestionable sense of something always being on the line—socially, romantically, academically, personally—that makes Final Draft feel so affecting. It's an exploration of what it means to "put yourself out there," to push the boundaries of what you've taken for granted. As much as that concept has been examined and re-examined to the point of cliché, I think Final Draft is a reminder that just because it's familiar doesn't mean it's any less real. (And the book definitely, definitely doesn't handle it in a cliched way.) And as necessary and gratifying and genuinely fun as "putting yourself out there" can sometimes be, it can also be really fucking scary. That's the reality that Laila has to reckon with throughout the novel, one that is so fully realized and that rang true for me on so many instances. All of this is not to say that Final Draft is a Sad Book, only that it is an authentic one.

One thing that is almost undeniable about this book is that Redgate is a talented writer. Everything about this novel works because her writing does. It hits all the right notes—dialogue, introspection, character description, you name it. It's the kind of writing that makes you go ...damn, not so much from the words themselves but from how they are able to convey so much feeling. There was one scene in particular that I'm pretty sure made my brain emit what is the neuroscientific equivalent of "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". I won't mention it here because I don't want to spoil it for you, but oh my goodness y'all, Riley Redgate Went There, and I love her for it.

★ I think we as a community of reviewers should coin a phrase that we can use when we want to tell people that a book is diverse. Personally, I'm thinking of something along the lines of DDD: Damn, Dat Diversity! (the use of "dat" alone makes me want to internally combust, but all for the sake of the mighty alliteration) Because if that phrase catches on (triple alliteration people !!!), I would without a doubt use it to describe Final Draft. This book is so diverse, and it makes me so happy. Laila is half-Ecuadorian, half-French Canadian, fat, tall, and queer (she reflects on how she thinks the label "pansexual" would fit her best, but she doesn't explicitly come out as pan). Her best friend Hannah—whom I LOVED, by the way—is Korean and a lesbian. There's also a lot of really great exploration of mental health, female sexuality, and racial/ethnic identity, as well as a f/f relationship. Simply put, Damn, Dat Diversity! (I'm rollin with it)

Honestly, I don't know what else to say. I went into this expecting a lot because I loved Noteworthy
so much, and it didn't disappoint—not even close. Riley Redgate is one of my favourite authors for a reason, and I really think her books speak for themselves. Final Draft was poignant and authentic and personal, and finishing it felt like I'd just Experienced Something.* This glorious book comes out on June 12th this year, and if I can boil down this actually never-ending review to one thing it would be this: read this book. It is so worth it.

*PS: I finished this book on a couch that was on sale in Costco then proceeded to close the Kindle app on my phone and look up into the aisles of wholesale products. don't you just love it when you have A Moment at Costco? truly the quintessential north-american experience
Profile Image for Brooke.
284 reviews142 followers
July 3, 2018
1.5 stars

Admittedly, I am not the biggest Riley Redgate fan. I didn't enjoy Seven Ways We Lie & I've had Noteworthy on my TBR forever. But when I read the synopsis for this, I was hooked. Perfectionism? Creative writing assignments? Queerness? Check, check & check. I didn't have high expectations but still I walked away feeling disappointed.

First off, the relationship between Laila & Mr. Madison was cringeworthy for me. It was not sexual in any form (thank god) but it was crossing the line between professional & personal. Yes, it's great to have nice teachers & connecting to them on some level (i.e. same TV show, he enjoys reading your drafts) but Laila took it too far. She acted like he was an actual friend of hers, not an adult in a position of authority? And she emailed him things that left me thinking, "Why would she do that?" I dunno, it just felt...weird. It set the tone for the rest of the book & I just couldn't roll with it as much as I tried to. I did agree with some of Nazarenko's advice & how she was able to get her to see things that Mr. Madison couldn't, so there's that. While it wasn't handled the best way, the authenticity of the advice & not sugarcoating it, was refreshing.

It was difficult to tolerate Laila. The character introspection was spot on, but at times it felt too much & overshadowed the plot. Some of her actions felt selfish & she projects self-hatred at others. (It's not a big thing, but still. It's there. As a queer individual I can relate to this to an extent, which is probably why it bothered me so much, but I don't particularly like seeing it in my reads.) Though not all that surprising, I couldn't stand to read the pettiness between Felix (or Leo?) & Samuel. Hannah, who identifies as lesbian, was okay (none of the secondary characters were fleshed out; what was described was only through "telling"), & I should have been happy for their f/f romance, but it's such a letdown when you're not rooting for either of the love interests. We see a bit of Laila's family, but again, none of these characters are fleshed out. I would have liked to see her relationship with specifically her sister explored more.

For a book about writing, I expected to see more of Laila's work. I wanted to see more revisions, less going back & forth with drama (the second half of the book is sooooo slow). After the big reveal towards the end, I couldn't wait to be done with it. There's too much going on the last several pages & it ends on a distasteful note. Ugh.

I did like a couple things about this book though, boosting it up .5*. Although Laila is exploring her identity & feels she might be pan, she never explicitly comes out. I love that this is not a book regarding coming out just because there is LGBTQIAP+ content. The guilt (shame, embarrassment) of attraction was well done- especially the female masturbation positivity. Yay for self-love! And of course I enjoyed the discussion of writing itself.

Overall FINAL DRAFT was a major miss for me, mostly because I did not mesh with Redgate's writing style at all, as well as not fleshing out characters enough. Hopefully Noteworthy will be better.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
669 reviews1,712 followers
May 7, 2019
Wow. This was such an unexpected read and one of the best 'quiet books' I have read in a long long time. I loved this, and am so glad that I read it.

- Follows Laila, a teen writer who, after her supportive mentor is hospitalised, has to grapple with her new mentor, who is as hard-ass and critical as they come.
- This story is about a lot of things - it's about friendship, it's about falling in love with your best friend, it's about finding singular moments of peace and joy amidst change.
- For me, however, I really connected with Laila's overwhelming desire to perfect her craft and her eagerness to win approval from her mentor, and losing yourself in the process. It is such a vicious cycle, and I connected to Laila's struggle so much.
- The rep is wonderful! Laila is biracial (white/Ecuadorian), fat, pansexual, and also has anxiety. The rep wasn't shallow either, and I appreciated that Redgate took time to explore these aspects of Laila's identity.
- I just... I loved this. I never expected to love this book, but I did. I don't see this book being for everyone because readers will either connect to it or they won't. Regardless, I cannot wait to see what else Redgate will write in the future.

Trigger/content warning:
Profile Image for Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd).
1,224 reviews255 followers
June 16, 2018
“Laughter formed coils around them, thick rings between their bodies and the world. The galaxy drew in and in until its entire contents were this room, hardwood to crown molding, this light, gold splashes from low iron cages, and the feeling of this proximity, heat, and security. The timeline had broken like a seal and let loose something weightless. For a crystal instant Laila was borne up on its back and was invulnerable and immortal, and she was never going to let them go.”

This was such a highly anticipated release for me because I have loved both of Riley Redgate’s previous books so much, but Final Draft was a miss for me. We follow Laila Pierda as she works on her sci-fi creative writing project as her favorite teacher is replaced with a hypercritical Pulitzer-Prize winning writer.

Things I Liked
I will always pick up a friendship-centered story. They’re some of my favorite and I loved seeing Laila and her friends fight, laugh, grow, and support each other.

I actually really liked Nazarenko’s advice and thought it was really insightful and helpful. While it might not have been the best method, or given with the most tact, It was nice advice. I also like that the story discussed writing as a legacy and the importance of writing to an author, not just in crafting a story, but in giving a piece of yourself.

This Quote
“Interrogate your instincts. Insecurity isn’t shameful. Attraction isn’t an embarrassment. Interpersonal affection isn’t a side note to be glossed over. Whatever the nature of the material that forms between two people, it’s the backbone of literature.”

Things I Didn’t Like
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Laila, we just didn’t click. I liked seeing her journey and growth, but I didn’t care about her as a person. I found her to be annoying, naive, and incredibly insecure. She relied so much on other people’s thoughts and opinions that it was hard to see her.

The fighting and bickering between Felix and Samuel was so juvenile and unnecessary and uninteresting.

The story just wasn’t grabbing me at all. I was bored and started skimming around the 2/3rds mark.

My feelings about Final Draft are probably best summarized as indifference, while is heart-crushing for someone who wanted this to be one of my favorite reads of the year. While I loved the friendship and writing aspect of the story, I didn’t love the characters. For me the parts brought the whole down. I still think Riley REdgate is an amazing author and will confidently recommend all of her books, I know that many people will love this and connect to Laila. I look forward to her future books!

I received a copy of the book from Amulet Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Romie.
1,093 reviews1,271 followers
June 14, 2019
I didn't feel connected to Laila for most part of the book. that's something I'm really sad about. because she was a great main character, she had depth, dreams, friends, a family, feelings, and yet I was just waiting to connect. and I did. when everything went down, I did. I saw myself in her pain and desperation. I connected to her at her lowest. I don't know how I should feel about that. it wasn't the story I had expected it to be, it had some important conversations about female masturbation, on being scared of attraction, and on depression, which I really appreciated, but I still feel like I've missed out on something and I don't know what. but I liked that the word pansexual was used on page to describe Laila's sexuality, and I could really connect to her struggles as a biracial person (3.5)
Profile Image for Chelsea.
316 reviews2,788 followers
August 10, 2018
Painfully beautiful passages scattered amongst a slowly chaotic coming of age story.
155 reviews260 followers
June 20, 2019
Final Draft is a slowburn wlw romance with a half Ecuadorian pansexual writer and a rebelious and adventurous Korean and honestly it's my school life summed up in 230 pages. I enjoyed every moment of it, and at many parts I just wanted to scream in delight because I loved a quote or a moment so much. That being said, I was really distracted in the last 50 pages of the book(entirely my mistake) and that really dwindled my enjoyement. But this really is a great contemporary and I wish more people would read this. Here are some of the good things

✔ Great family dynamics

✔ strong group of friends (suprisingly, I haven't seen much of strong squads in most of the ya. But in Final Draft this was so well done. I kinda miss my own school squad now.)

✔ cute slowburn romance

✔ good teacher-student relationship (I feel like most of the ya I've been reading lately paints the teachers as some evil incarnate, but in this book I loved protaganist's relationship with both Mr Madison and Ms Nazarenko)

✔ sexual exploration ( as someone who's still making peace with the concept of masturbation and sex as something enjoyable, the protagonist's struggles and thoughts in this regard were very relatable)

✔ Writer put great effort to touch upon the emotions and personality of every character, that alone deserves 5 stars.

✔ Laila's writing progress was so interesting. It was everything I never knew I wanted to read. I don't want to write about it, i just want anyone who read this review, read this book.

I'm kinda sad that I didn't love this as much as it deserve but please don't sleep on this book. This ie anvery innovative book and everyone and their mothers needs to read this book.


🔹 She wanted to capture this second in high-definition forever and fire it out, limitless, self-reproducing, like love or regret.

🔹When she was about to die, would she keep hold of this mountainside? She imagined the nightfall, and imagined that star, burning through time to meet her eyes. It’s a miracle, Laila thought. A miracle that in the year 1006 this collision happened, and the light created in the aftermath is still pouring our way. A miracle that anything temporary could reach so far.

🔹..... and then the four of them were exchanging irrepressible grins, looking away, throwing out plans for the weekend, joking furiously back and forth as if the lapse in their friendship had never happened. This, Laila remembered, was why she and Leo put up with all the fights. Because the sensation as they clicked back together, like the tumblers in a lock, was a sweeter relief than any other.

🔹“You know this still happens,” said Nazarenko. “Especially now, when at your fingertips you have the nexus of all human information, you live in the shadow of the knowledge that no matter what happiness you take, someone in the world is in pain. If suffering is necessary to art, it’s because the recognition of suffering is a necessary step toward full consciousness in the world. The likelihood of suffering, whether physical or emotional—that is risk; that’s what frightens us; that makes a story. Go find some struggle. Go find some fear. Few things are more useful.”

🔹When had she risked anything, really? She looked back through her life and saw a procession of schoolday routines, chores, conversational chatter. She felt like a witness to the massacre of all her time. For a horrible moment, she wondered if she'd only ever written science fiction to build an escape chute from her life's insistent monotone.

🔹Interrogate your instincts. Insecurity isn’t shameful. Attraction isn’t an embarrassment. Interpersonal affection isn’t a side note to be glossed over. Whatever the nature of the material that forms between two people, it’s the backbone of literature.

🔹Laughter formed coils around them, thick rings between their bodies and the world. The galaxy drew in and in until its entire contents were this room, hardwood to crown molding, this light, gold splashes from low iron cages, and the feeling of this proximity, heat, and security. The timeline had broken like a seal and let loose something weightless. For a crystal instant Laila was borne up on its back and was invulnerable and immortal, and she was never going to let them go.
Profile Image for Alice.
229 reviews43 followers
August 10, 2018
This story is "organically messy". I don't know if that's a good thing, but I liked reading it. I didn't really like the characters. Literally everything in this story went nowhere except the romance. Well Laila's character developed also. I liked the romance. Laila's friends besides Hannah didn't do much. Laila's whole writing plotline fell to the wayside later on.

So when I first read Laila's story I was like oh no I hate it so I had it out for Laila in the beginning, but then Nazarenko (the strict famous writer lady) came in as her new writing teacher and roasted her for being unoriginal and I was alright then I'll keep reading. Throughout the story there are bits of Laila's writing, but I can't even judge if they are actually good are not because there's obviously no context from such a small text of writing. I truly believe if Laila's wrote a sci-fi book I would 100% come on here and roast it. I did not give 2 shits about the whole sci-fi love thing.

Another plotline in the beginning was Laila's friend Felix and he is having a fight with some guy named Samuel who is also getting writing advice from Nazarenko and yeah that storyline goes nowhere and it makes no sense why they are even fighting in the first place.

I feel like this story and Laila's emotional journey is very specifically relatable only to certain people. There was a lot of things that should have been #relatable content but wasn't to me.

I didn't really like Laila, but I didn't really hate her either. She was ok. I wasn't really rooting for her. I mean I did want Nazarenko to roast her. She's just meh. Not that interesting or relatable.

I think the only reason I liked this book was because of the writing style and the romance. The romance pretty much had super little development, but I liked it anyway and the writing style was just fun to read. There's this slightly psychedelic masturbation scene that wasn't erotic at all just psychedelic, but not in a on drugs way.

So when I read reviews of this there always something about Laila's original writing teacher Mr. Madison and how their friendship seemed oddly close for student and teacher "BUT NOT IN A SEXUAL WAY". If I didn't read the book myself I would be concerned after reading this, but truly it's not in a sexual way it's just the way Laila's talked about her personal life to him was really open in a way you wouldn't expect for a student teacher relationship. I thought their friendship was sweet.
Profile Image for Marie.
495 reviews185 followers
May 23, 2018
Hello this book was adorable, writing struggles, adorable romance, relatable main characters, I reaaaaaaaaally enjoyed this and please add it to your TBRs. <3
Full review coming soon!
Profile Image for Dylan.
547 reviews226 followers
June 13, 2019
3.5 stars.

While this had some pacing issues, this is such a great melancholy book that talks honestly about grief and depression.

GOD, Redgate is such a powerful writer.
Profile Image for Atlas.
713 reviews28 followers
April 29, 2018
She bowed under the heaviness of the hours she hadn't lived yet

* * * *
4 / 5

When I finished Final Draft my main emotion was sad. Redgate portrayed depression and grief so realistically, it made me feel a bit empty inside, which is how I know an author has hit the nail on the head. This isn't really a happy book, but it's definitely a great one.

She wanted to pierce the furthest frontier of her ability

Laila Piedra is half-Ecuadorian, half-French Canadian, and entirely full of passion for writing. Her creative writing teacher has been her biggest fan, but now he's ill and been replaced by a Pulitzer Prize winner. Nazarenko isn't so amazed with Laila's work, and judging from the excerpts included between the chapters, you can realistically see why. Laila's writing is sort of immature, the product of being eighteen with little life experience. When Nazarenko suggests that this is the reason for her low grades, Laila decides to throw herself into life and all it's experiences, to the detriment of her relationships and her mental health.

Redgate perfectly portrays being eighteen and realising the world is wider than you had ever known. The sense of introspection, of your friends drawing apart, of wanting to put yourself and your work "out there", and realising that maybe you aren't quite as good as you thought you were. It's sad and poignant but also kind of awesome. Laila dives into a world of alcohol and parties and drugs and sexuality and re-navigating her friendships (particularly with her friend Hannah), as well as tackling grief, loss, and mental health problems.

Her inexperience didn't feel charming or virtuous, like she was some good-girl persona from a movie. It felt furious and heated, humiliating and childish

Final Draft is my second Redgate novel and maybe I didn't love it quite as much as Noteworthy, but it still had that same flavour. I loved the writing style, poignant and relatively simple. Everything was emotional and also super diverse. I did find all the inclusion of Laila's writing, the development of a show the character's all love, the emails with her old writing teacher, all the fangirling - it was either boring or a bit weird and cringy. But that's my only real complaint here.

Overall, Final Draft is a a touching, thoughtful, and emotional read. It's very introspective and you spend a lot of time in Laila's interesting little head.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book!

Read this review and more on my blog: https://atlasrisingbooks.wordpress.co...
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
634 reviews567 followers
August 17, 2018
Of all the books Amulet scheduled to release this Spring/Summer season, Final Draft was the one I was looking forward the most.
The premise sounds just right up my alley, as I also like to write and rewrite, so having a main character who’s so into writing was (in my case) a recipe for commonality.
Diverse representation is always a plus, and this novel represents pensexuality, homosexuality, Ecuadorian, Korean and anxiety (if I missed something, I do apologize!).

Reading Final Draft, when it comes to enjoyment, was like being on a roller coster. One chapter it was everything I wanted from a ya novel, when the other was dull, and I had to push myself to concentrate on the story.

The thing is, it was a similar experience to the one I had when I was reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Parts with the main character’s writing I didn’t find interesting, when other parts of the story were really good with some boring/not interesting enough moments.

Laila was an interesting, likeable character and it was easy to emphasize with her.
Her best friend, Hannah was awesome and it was a pleasure to read every page that included her.

However Laila’s teacher Nazarenko, who’s appearance is one of the most important (or remarkable) part of the book, was so unlikeable, that even today I find it hard to explain just how badly she got on my nerves.

Final Draft is not only a great choice for a reading pleasure, but it is also somewhat useful, as it contains some writing advices.

Even though I had a good time reading this novel, I have to admit that unfortunately it is (at least in my case) not a memorable piece. I don’t think that I’ll remember much about it even 6 months from now.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend it to young readers (and aspiring authors), especially to those who enjoyed Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Read this and more reviews on my blog: https://bookdustmagic.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,524 followers
August 13, 2018
CW: Masturbation, underage drinking, drug use, sudden death of a loved one, depression, grief.

Full review originally posted on my blog: Word Wonders

After reading Riley Redgate’s Noteworthy and loving that one, I knew I absolutely had to read eveything else she puts out (do not mention the fact that I’ve had Seven Ways we Lie for over a year now and haven’t touched it yet) and I had really really REALLY high expectations for Final Draft and although the first half felt like it was setting me up for disappointement, the second half tore my emotions to shreds, which…I was not expecting at all. It was a right book right time type situation and I ended up loving it.

The writing is gorgeous, it fits the main character’s voice perfectly, she’s a writer and it shows in the way her thoughts are strung together and expressed, all the metaphors and imagery. Although, I’d have to say that it got a tad too much at times, like at one point we get a whole page of description to just convey that Spring is here and that…is…a lot. Luckily that doesn’t happen a lot and this type of writing does more good than bad to the narration. Because it has so many beautiful quotes, a few of which hit me just right and only made me cherish the book.

Here’s where I tell you why that first half didn’t do it for me. I was bored. It was a lot of the same thing, Leila doing a whole bunch of nothing, mainly talking, breathing, sleeping her writing, which I do get, because a lot of us, yes me included, have a routine sort of life, where much of the same thing happens, but a book needs to keep the reader’s attention and that first half fails to do that in my opinion which once you read the whole novel makes sense, but right there and then it was just frustrating.

Final Draft finally starts picking up when Laila gets a new teacher that shakes up her life and pushes her to live outside her writing to better her craft. From then on, I was hooked, not because the MC changes drastically and becomes this social butterfly, far from that, but things start happening, not all good, to be honest, most of which aren’t good but I really enjoyed following Leila’s journey in opening herself up to the world, fuck ups et all. That being said, and what I didn’t expect, is that the book is heavier than we’re led to believe. Towards the last third of it, Leila gets hit by depression (this isn’t a spoiler and if anyone thinks so, the exit is to the top right) and the way it was portrayed was so so so great to me personally. It kind of gave me the words I needed to read when I needed them, and for that, this book will always have a special spot in my heart.

Laila‘s a fat ecuadorian pansexual girl and she’s the kind of main character a lot of us can relate to, because she has a very routinely life where she goes to school, has dinner with her family, reads, watches shows, writes and goes out with her friends sometimes. Which is a pretty good life, Don’t get me wrong, but not the most entertaining to read about. She’s pretty insecure in herself and her writing and a little bit lost, which becomes VERY lost before returning to a little bit lost as the book progresses.

There’s an f/f romance that pops up and although I was really hoping it would happen and that I really enjoyed reading about it, I still wish there were more build up to it, there was a bit of foreshadowing but nothing in the two girls’ interactions that would signal what’s between them would turn into a romance and it was quite sudden to be honest. But I’m sapphic trash, so I still really liked it. Her friends’ group is also the cutest thing ever, they’re all so supportive of each other and are there for each other no matter the fights and misunderstandings, I want Hannah, Felix and Leo to be my best friends.
Profile Image for Rahma.
266 reviews77 followers
November 21, 2018
4.25 stars. A very welcome and unexpected surprise!
When a book reduces you to tears, the author has done something right.

I first picked up this book a few months ago in an attempt to get over a prolonged reading slump. But it just wasn't the right time to read it, so I put it aside.
Then last night I was browsing my library Overdrive app looking for something to evade the reading slump that I could feel was on its way (again, yes). I found this book and started reading in a whim, and that was that; I stayed up until 4 AM finishing it.

Final Draft is about Laila, a high school senior and an aspiring science-fiction writer. She has this bond with her creative writing teacher, who unfortunately gets in an accident that leaves him in the hospital and Laila gets a substitute teacher. The sub is a best-selling author and a very strict teacher who almost fails everyone. And as the synopsis mentions, Laila becomes obsessed with impressing this teacher and the story goes from there.

However, this book isn't just about that. While the writing aspect occupied the main character's mind for most of the book, there is a lot of focus on friendship and identity, among other things.
But what I loved the most was the exploration of how, given the wrong kind of push, something you love doing (writing in this case) can also be your most significant source of stress, leading to an unhealthy obsession.

Something else this book has got going for it is the writing. The author knows how to balance it out so it doesn't feel too wordy or too bland. It's beautiful and simple, with metaphors emerging at exactly the right moments.
She bowed under the heaviness of the hours she hasn't lived yet.

And it's impressive lines like this one, combined with Laila's Anxiety, that tug at your heart and make you empathise with her so much. And, as in my case, shed a few tears.
On a similar note, Laila is one of the most relatable main characters I've come across in quite a long time. It also doesn't hurt that she is accompanied by a group of interesting, complex, diverse side characters.

Kudos to the author for being able to address so many important issues in such a short novel!
These days, I feel there are many books coming out with a main character who loves to write, so it can be hard to decide which ones to read. If you're looking for this kind of book, all I can say is thatFinal Draft by Riley Redgate is a must-read.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,154 reviews1,466 followers
March 2, 2019
4.5 stars! A truly excellent unique novel on the older end of the YA spectrum. Laila is a dedicated 18-year-old high school SF writer whose world of careful control is turned upside down when her mentor and creative writing teacher is in a horrible accident. His replacement is an impossibly cool award winning author who Laila wants desperately to impress. The ensuing journey takes her way out of her comfort zone. I loved Redgate's smart insightful writing and the portrayals of mental health, queerness (pansexuality in particular), and a tight friend group. Also an f/f pairing with two girls of colour!

Honestly the only things I didn't love were how the audiobook's narrator did the same voice for Hannah and Nadia and for Felix, Leo, and Mr Madison. It felt very weird to have an adult and a teen sound the same! I also felt like the representation of Laila's "French Canadian" mom and background could have been a lot more fleshed out, especially in comparison to how much it talks about her dad being Ecuadorian: food, language, cultural events are all featured. Like, at no point does her mom or Laila mention speaking French or anything about Quebecois culture. Honestly from my experience with Quebec francophones the idea of identifying as "French Canadian" feels inauthentic--Quebecois seems a lot more likely, but I guess wouldn't be understandable to an American audience? Anyway this is a minor thing!
Profile Image for Jessica C Writes.
579 reviews52 followers
June 17, 2020
I was terrified to read this book. I have wanted to read it ever since it came out because, duh, it's a book about writing. I'm a reader, but I'm also a writer, so getting to combine those two? Incredible. But, my expectations were set really high, so I was worried that I would be disappointed.

Spoiler alert: I wasn't.

From the first page, I loved the writing style of this book. It was done really well, and I found myself underlining so many quotes that I enjoyed.

The cast of characters is also so diverse. The main character, Laila, is pansexual, biracial, and plus-size, and she also deals with anxiety. Her best friend is lesbian.

What I really loved is that Laila has many flaws. She is not a perfect character by any means. She goes through many changes from beginning to end of the book as she struggles with her writing. I was able to relate to it so much. I appreciate the way her character was done. She also struggles with her sexuality, so she explores it a little bit throughout the novel.

It is a shorter read, but it is extremely complex. I highly recommend giving this one a try, it was incredible.

TW/CW: death, depression, anxiety
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