Final Draft is one of the most evocative and most powerfully quiet books I have had the pleasure to read in a long, long time. Picking this up, I never expected this book to burrow deep into my skin, find a place in my soul, and would just… understand me and who I am on a fundamental human level.
The book follows Laila, a teen who, following the hospitalisation of her supportive and encouraging mentor, has to grapple with the challenging and confronting criticisms of her new mentor, an award-winning author who is as hard-ass and sardonic as they come.
I can see this book being a hit-or-miss sort of book. Final Draft explores a plethora of topics, and it is the sort of gem where different people will find pieces of themselves in its story. Or, they simply may not connect with it. And that’s okay. Nonetheless, I want you all to read this incredible book, so instead of a full book review, I wanted to share five great reasons of why you should pick up this underrated and underappreciated treasure in young adult fiction.
1. A compassionate and humanising story about being a teen
Final Draft embodies everything that is wonderful about ‘quiet books’. No matter how old you are, Final Draft will effortlessly evoke your compassion and empathy for the story’s protagonist, Laila. Taking place in her last year of high school, Final Draft explores her tumultuous journey with writing and perfecting her craft and how she loses herself in the process. Though the story is ‘low stakes’ and reads like slice-of-life, Final Draft is powerfully affirming and validating, particularly for those who relate to Laila and her struggles with herself, love, relationships, ambition, and loss.
2. Told beautifully, with warm and introspective prose
I’ve read Redgate’s previous work, and Final Draft is a testament to how Redgate has grown as a writer. The prose is gorgeous and wonderful, deftly exploring the beauty in the mundane but also the singular moments that make us feel so small in our existence and yet fill our being with joy and peace. I loved the way that Redgate could be simply describing something so mundane in Laila’s life, and then would shift into this profound examination of Laila’s nuanced feelings of inadequacy, ambition, yearning, and existence. Redgate’s storytelling made me feel so many things, and even though Laila and I are so different, I understood her, I empathised with her.
3. Explores Laila’s perfectionism, ambition, and need for external validation
It’s not often I find books that excellently portray the toxic and obsessive side of honing your creative work, but I related so much to Laila’s emotional journey from wanting to improve, to attributing the value of her work based on someone else’s arbitrary judgement, to that overwhelming and frenzied desire to be perfect. The momentum of Final Draft can be found in Laila’s relationship with her craft, and how far she will go to win the approval from a tough and unimpressed mentor, Nadiya Nazarenk, to the point that she may lose herself and lose the love for the craft. Fellow creatives and perfectionists out there will relate and understand Laila’s plight.
4. Authentic representation that delves a little deeper than mere appearance
Laila is an intersection of marginalised identities: she’s biracial (Ecuadorian/French-Canadian), she’s pansexual, she’s fat, and she has anxiety. What I appreciated was that Redgate took time to explore the various dimensions of Laila’s identities, particularly her biracial identity and how she feels a displaced and a little loss in the midst of performing her identity in ways that are meaningful and authentic to herself and others, and how the subtle cultural differences emerge in her own family dynamics. I adored Laila as a character, and it was wonderful seeing such a realised and beautifully-written character where her identities were meaningful to her, a part of her, and yet she had very human flaws – as all good characters should.
5. Has a f/f relationship – with friends to lovers!
One of the more unexpected elements of this book was that it has a f/f romance in the story, and I absolutely adored it. For one, it was refreshing to read a f/f relationship where the two characters don’t start out hating each other. Rather, Final Draft is a very quiet and subtle examination of how two girls who are so different to each other but somehow coalesce and just make so much sense find a tether in each other, to each other, in a time where everything is changing and much doesn’t make sense. The relationship was so tender and felt so organic and meaningful to the story – their friendship and love was such a gentle and wonderful thing to read.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: On her senior year, a teen seeks the approval of her new mentor, plummeting her into experiences unknown and at the risk of losing herself.
Perfect for: readers who love ‘quiet books’; readers who like character-driven stories; readers who are perfectionists and creatives; readers who like slice-of-life stories.
Think twice if: readers aren’t interested in character-driven stories; readers who want a substantial and distinct plot.
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Trigger/content warning: anxiety, alcohol consumption, drug use, internalised ableism, death of a loved one
If you haven’t yet, I wholeheartedly recommend this amazing blog post by Fadwa from Word Wonders, who discusses why she loves Quiet YA and even offers some book recommendations! Quiet YA is something that I adore and will protect at all costs, so if you have a Quiet YA book in mind, let me know in the comments! 💛
- Have you read Final Draft? What did you think?
- Do you have some ‘quiet YA’ book recommendations?
- Do you prefer books with low-stakes or high-stakes?