Final Draft

Final Draft

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...

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Title:Final Draft
Author:Riley Redgate
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Final Draft Reviews

  • Dahlia

    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

    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 intere

    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

    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.

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    This is one of those rare books that is

    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 curre

    This is one of those rare books that is

    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

    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

    , or probably even if you've been a teenager before, you will

    her.

    The way Riley Redgate writes Laila is so…

    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

    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

    . 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

    . 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

    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

    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

    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.

    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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  • Acqua

    and the second novel I've read by Riley Redgate. I really liked

    last year because of the humor and the friendships, and this one was even better.

    . 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 d

    and the second novel I've read by Riley Redgate. I really liked

    last year because of the humor and the friendships, and this one was even better.

    . 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.

    . 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

    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

    .

    I loved reading about Laila.

    . Also, this is a book about a

    , 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;

    .

    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.

    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 books in which both girls aren’t white).

    I loved this book, but I’m not completely sure I want to recommend it:

    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

    – that didn’t give me anxiety while I was reading. This was true to life and fun and beautiful but it was also

    . 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,

    . It could be realistic and it’s probably a personal thing,

  • Fatma

    where do i even begin

    ★ First of all, LAILA.

    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.

    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

    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.)

    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.

    It hits all the right notes—dialogue, introspection, character description, you name it. It's the kind of writing that makes you go

    , 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,

    ★ 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

    .

    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,

    (I'm rollin with it)

    Honestly, I don't know what else to say. I went into this expecting a lot because I loved

    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.

    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:

    *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

  • Marie

    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!

  • may ➹

    soft slow-burn f/f romance featuring a fat pansexual biracial Ecuadorian WRITER and a snarky Korean lesbian???? you all are sleeping on this!!!

  • ambsreads

    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 (t

    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

    ✗ A MESSY AND BEAUTIFUL LOOK AT LIFE

    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.

    ✗ SO. MUCH. CHARACTER. DEPTH.

    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.

    ✗ ANXIETY REP WAS SO SPOT ON

    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.

    ✗ SUPPORTIVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS

    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

    ✗ STORY FELT A LITTLE CLUNKY IN PLACES

    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.

    ✗ A DOG IS BRIEFLY MENTIONED BUT WE DONT GET MORE

    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.

  • Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd)

    This was such a

    This was such a highly anticipated release for me because I have loved both of Riley Redgate’s previous books so much, but

    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.

    I will always pick up a

    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

    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

    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

    I wasn’t the biggest fan of

    , 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

    was so juvenile and unnecessary and uninteresting.

    The story just

    me at all. I was bored and started skimming around the 2/3rds mark.

    My feelings about

    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!

  • Trevor

    1.5 stars

    Admittedly, I am not the biggest Riley Redgate fan. I didn't enjoy

    & I've had

    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

    1.5 stars

    Admittedly, I am not the biggest Riley Redgate fan. I didn't enjoy

    & I've had

    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.

  • joey (thoughts and afterthoughts)

    I'VE NEVER RELATED SO MUCH TO A BOOK'S PREMISE/CHARACTER.

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