I received Final Draft by Riley Redgate via Netgalley from the publisher. All views are my own.
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.
Trigger warnings: underage drinking, masturbation, drug use, death, sex, major depressive episode
Laila is a fat, pansexual, Ecuadorian-American girl who is obsessed with science fiction. She writes, watches a hit TV show called The Rest, and generally eats, drinks and sleeps sci-fi. I loved the slight fandom element of the book, as well as the inclusion of various scenes from Laila’s work in progress for her creative writing class.
I thought the various representations were great – there’s a particular scene where Laila talks about being uncomfortable with the way her body looks in a tank top, and as a fat girl, I FELT HER SO HARD. There’s also discussions about her being biracial, but I can’t comment on that because I am not biracial myself. I also thought the representation of mental health was particularly well done, as someone who has had many of the experiences of mental health that she has. Laila has a couple of nervous tics throughout the novel – these include chewing her hair. Near the end of the novel she goes through a depressive episode, where she feels like she would be better off not existing. Because of this episode, she goes to a psychiatrist and starts using SSRIs. While neither of these are gone into with huge depth, the fact that they were there was really great.
I really enjoyed the romance as well. I’m not going to say who her love interest is, but just that there is a f/f romance, which we do not see enough of in YA, in my opinion. It was a complicated relationship, and I was absolutely living for the drama between the two girls, especially because they’re so different in temperament.
The only downside I saw to this particular book was the writing itself – there were times when I started getting confused about who the characters were, because other than Laila and her love interest, I didn’t think her friends were particularly fleshed-out. Sometimes the writing was just a little jumbled as well, which was a shame because the book was so specifically about writing!
Overall, I thought that this book had great mental health representation, particularly in the light that Laila is also biracial and queer.