Being blown away by Redgate’s earlier novel, Noteworthy, I was so excited about reading Final Draft. I was over the moon when I was accepted on Netgalley and even more excited when I stumbled upon the arc.
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 enjoyed Final Draft on so many different levels. On the surface level there is a phenomenal plot, at the same time there’s this almost self-reflexive commentary on writing. Laila is a fantastic main character who I could instantly empathize with. Laila was me when I was in school (except I never wanted to become a writer because of insecurity, but yep).
First off, the cover and the title are amazing. It encapsulates one of the main themes – the idea or question if anything is ever done? When we work on a piece of work how do we arrive at the final draft? Does that even exist? As a writer, how do we get from the first to the final draft? Not even only as a writer, but also as a human.
We need to ask ourselves how do we produce our best work. Do we need someone to push us harshly or do we need someone who tries to cushion our fall? I keep thinking about myself and my own teachers/mentors in my life. Sometimes I was told that I needed to have a push, and I do manage to do my best work – but I am so stressed when I do. And at the same time, they were never cruel, just were critical – which is definitely a distinction.
(Also does all our work have to be ground breaking? Can we just not have fandom? Or passion projects? This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about in relation to my own blog and work. Which I have, become quite obsessed with).
Even moving away from the powerful and thought provoking theme, the story and the characters are amazingly complex. Laila wants to be perfect, to hone her passion, and at the same time she has this flair about her, this touch, this piece of light that makes her glow. Laila is also pansexual (just as a FYI). At the same time, there are little details that throw each of the characters into vivid colors. They are unable to fade into the background of life. Final Draft also has a f/f relationship within it that makes your heart swoon and break and piece back together.
Laila also has a difficult relationship with her sexuality because she has a lot of internalized guilt and shame. I could really identify with this and Laila’s struggles. At the same time there are some scenes I loved that were important to call out here because of how much they would have meant to me as a teen reader. There’s a scene of female masturbation which would have meant so much to me. It would have given me the vocabulary I needed and also someone I could identify with. At the same time, Final Draft is so emotional because we build up people in our minds, have images of them that are shadows of who they are, and we need to put then against the harsh daylight to find out who we really are. Check out Final Draft on Goodreads.