Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Final Draft (book review)
Expected publication: June 12th, 2018
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 received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.
One of the first things I did when I turned 18 was sign up for NetGalley. A website that gives you books for free so long as you review them? Yeah, I was sold. And my first request was approved! It was great.
Anyways, I really did love the first half of the book, but after finishing it and the more I've let it sit with me, my conclusion is . . . meh? It was all right. I can't say I hated anything, but I didn't have strong feelings about much of anything, one way or the other.
Let's talk about some of the things I did like:
-There was a heavy focus on writing. I'm a sucker for books about writers, because, obviously, I can relate to them! Every writerly character is different, but on some level, I can always see myself in them. This makes it way easier for me to empathize with them and get sucked into the story. I was drawn in right away by the creative writing aspect and loved how much writing was key to the plot. The story also demonstrated the importance for different kinds of mentors, including the cheerleader mentor who boosts your self-esteem and allows you to be confident about your writing, and the harsh critic who helps you to break free from your comfort zone and improve your writing, even if it's difficult.
-The book talked a lot about being a part of a fandom. Laila and her friends are obsessed with a sci-fi show called "The Rest" (which seemed to be similar to "The 100," but maybe that was just me) and even though they all recognize it's not the most perfect show in the world, it's still important to them and they love it unabashedly. It's part of how they bond and, 12 seasons later, they're still invested in the story. Again, this is something I could relate to. It really made fandom culture a positive thing.
-There was so much diversity! Laila is plus-size, pansexual, and half-Ecuadorian/half-French Canadian. Her best friend is a lesbian, and her entire friend group is racially diverse. It was really refreshing to see a school setting be realistically diverse, since, for some reason, that doesn't happen a lot.
-There was a twist in the middle that actually made me gasp out loud a little. I am notoriously horrible when it comes to predicting plot twists, so it may have just been me, but I totally did not see it coming.
-The descriptions were unique. When it came to describing the setting or characters' movements, I didn't feel bored, like I sometimes do when I encounter those sorts of things. I'm a skimmer, so if something doesn't hold my attention and isn't necessary, I'll breeze right past it. With this book, though, I actually wanted to soak up the couple sentences here and there that explained what the characters were doing in a fresh and interesting way.
And now for some of the things I didn't like:
-There were gigantic blocks of text that were out of place. Out of nowhere, Laila would go from doing something interesting to reminiscing about a random topic for two solid pages. Some of these thoughts were important and others were not. But either way, they could have been placed somewhere way better. It threw off the pacing, big time
-I didn't buy the romance. I wanted to, I really did, but again, it seemed to come out of nowhere. If there were hints early on about Laila's attraction to this person, I didn't catch it until way later. It should've worked, but both characters suddenly became way out of character when they were together. It was also supposed to affect the plot and the reader's emotions in a pretty big way toward the end, but I found myself not caring about it in the slightest.
-The book took a dark turn. The entire second half of the book didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story. I wouldn't have minded it, overall, if it had been carried out better. But it seemed like Laila completely changed as a person and the plot sort of drifted into nothingness.
-Laila's risk-taking played into unfortunate tropes. I hate, hate, hate when introverted characters are pushed to get some "life experience" and "take risks." Introverts can be perfectly happy at home with a book! It doesn't mean they're sad and lonely. In this case, I could kind of understand where some of the characters were coming from when they told Laila she needed to get out and live a little. There are times when it's good to get out of your comfort zone, and for the sake of her writing, Laila did need to have some new experiences. However. Why, why, why must every "new" and "exciting" experience involve getting drunk or having run-ins with the cops? If there is one trope I hate, it's that one. Life experience does not equal breaking the law and living a rebellious teenage life. There were about a bazillion other things Laila could have done to branch out in her life, but no, she had to get a fake ID and go to a bar.
-Something about Laila's relationship with her previous writing teacher didn't strike me as genuine. Maybe it was because we didn't get a good look at what their relationship was like before he had his accident and had to leave the school, but I didn't feel like they were as close as the story tried to portray. The e-mails, specifically, seemed off. The characters' voices didn't translate well in their online interactions.
-The ending was dissatisfying. Without spoiling anything, I didn't feel like anything completely tied up. It wasn't ambiguous, it was just . . . unfinished. It seemed like the author was trying to send a message, but I couldn't pick up on what that message was. It either went right over my head or the way the message was portrayed wasn't super clear. The ending was part of why I had a hard time rating the book at first, because I didn't know how to feel about it. I didn't feel anything, and that's definitely not how a book should leave you.
I rate it:
Final Draft was okay, but it's not a story that's going to stay with me. I'll probably forget most of it in a month or two. There was a lot I enjoyed, and it was a pretty short read, so it didn't consume a lot of my time, but I didn't have strong feelings about it. Not my particular cup of tea, but it may appeal much more to someone else.
Have you read Final Draft? What did you think? What are your favorite books about writers? Leave a comment!
I am an 18-year-old homeschooler, author, daydreamer, voracious reader, introvert, feminist, klutz, fangirl, and overuser of tape. I love the impossible (which might explain my obsessions with fantasy novels and Harry Potter) but I dip into the real world . . . occasionally. I tend to get overly emotional over my OTPs and eat sushi or listen to Taylor Swift to soothe the pain. If all else fails, reruns of “Doctor Who” or “Supernatural” is sure to help. I’m a big fan of mismatched socks, Cheez-Its, and bittersweet endings. I believe anything Rainbow Rowell, Felicia Day, or Lin-Manuel Miranda touches turns to gold. If you want to win the way to my heart, help me adopt a baby elephant. Or a llama. Or both. I write to survive and will often yell at my characters if they aren’t behaving, which is always. It doesn’t usually help. I am a contributor to the "Fauxpocalypse" anthology. You can follow me on Twitter at @Magic_Violinist.