‘Final Draft’ by Chicago’s Riley Redgate leads this week’s YA fiction roundup

‘Final Draft’ by Chicago’s Riley Redgate leads this week’s YA fiction roundup
06 Aug

“Final Draft” by Riley Redgate, Abrams, 272 pages, $17.99, ages 14 and up

Fear keeps plenty of authors from sharing their work. What if nobody likes it? Laila, a high school senior from Brooklyn, is grateful that her science fiction stories have an enthusiastic audience of one: her creative writing teacher Mr. Madison. But when he goes on medical leave, Laila falls from star student to literal failure. Mr. Madison’s replacement, an austere Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, awards her a stingy 33 out of 100 on the first assignment she turns in, one that normally would have earned her raves. How Laila responds to this unexpected reality check, and how the effects of it ripple through her everyday life, provides the substance of Riley Redgate’s layered, perceptive third novel.

Final Draft” eloquently unpacks the meaning of “revision,” a word that tends to make young writers — and not-so-young writers — squirm. In a scathing critique of Laila’s story, the new teacher concludes that it bears little connection to authentic experience. “The plot contains nothing original … and I can only assume that the student has tried to substitute pulp science-fiction narratives for her own life, given that there are no echoes of reality’s chaos or contradictions here.” So Laila decides that, if she wants to improve her writing, she has to live. “She (has) to surface from her virtual reality, rip the intubation tube from her throat, and let the world pour in.” In the process she discovers that risk-taking doesn’t have to happen far from home. Sometimes the riskiest move is to look deeply inward and at your closest relationships and see it all anew.

“Summer of Salt” by Katrina Leno, HarperTeen, 272 pages, $17.99, Ages 13 and up



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