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Review of Only Here, Only Now by Tom Newlands

It’s the 90s. Cora is fourteen, sick of her small Scottish town and her reputation as ‘the girl with a mum in a wheelchair’. They’re poverty-stricken and struggling but Cora is focused only on boys and getting out of there. When her mum brings Gunner, the one-eyed shoplifter, home, it spells trouble and Cora’s uncontrollable behaviour starts to spiral. She can’t concentrate in school and everything is always one step forward, three steps back. Then something tragic happens and Cora is left to navigate all of this alone. Falling in with the wrong boys and failing in her friendships, she needs to get away now more than ever...

Only Here, Only Now is a diamond of a novel and one of my favourite debuts this year. Tom Newlands is an incredible new voice in Scottish literature and Cora Mowat has a special place in my heart. This is a gritty, heart-wrenching tale of adolescence and class, painting a portrait of mid-90s Scotland that feels so vivid. I felt so deeply for each of Newlands’ characters and their desperate situations. It’s an astonishing read and one that I can’t get out of my head.

There is also a note at the end of the novel on how many children were diagnosed with hyperactivity in the UK during the 1990s, a condition that would later become known as ADHD. This is a literary representation of those children that gives well-rounded insight into what life was like for those who slipped through the cracks of education and care.

Review by Abi.

Only Here, Only Now was published on 13/06/24 by Phoenix.



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