Book review · contemporary · Young adult

Review: Final Draft by Riley Redgate

35960813Final 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.
The fact that I could 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 books 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.

My rating: ★★★★¾

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2 thoughts on “Review: Final Draft by Riley Redgate

  1. This seems like a wonderful book, and I’ve heard amazing things but your review really sells it. I’m almost certain I’m going to be hit pretty hard with the themes of anxiety ruining an activity the protagonist previously loved, because it’s pretty much what happened to me with art. And something I also felt keenly in The Dark Beneath the Ice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt it in TDBtI too, but it had already happened by the beginning of the book and wasn’t its focus. Here it is the focus, and we see it happen slowly – it was really painful to read at times.
      Anyway, I hope you like it if you try it! I really did, but I considered DNFing it multiple times because of the content

      Liked by 1 person

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