Thank you so much Pansing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! The M Word by Brian Conaghan is available at all good bookstores.
A headache and half a heartbreak to read, The M Word by Brian Conaghan is a raw, cutting interpretation of what it’s like to have depression and live with someone with depression—all while coping with guilt and grief.
The language used to narrate this story is largely vulgar and angry. It can be off-putting for some (and it was for me, until I got used to it), but this perfectly reflects where Maggie stands during those moments of her life. It does soften near the end, though, coming hand-in-hand with her gradual moving on.
Another thing about the language is that it isn’t standard English. There is a lot of slang and other distinctive linguistic features that I don’t often come across in Young Adult fiction. Therefore, combining this with the vulgar/angry language meant that I (as someone who doesn’t use this form of non-standard English) needed to put more effort in reading and understanding so honestly, it gave me a headache. However, this usage of slang and other distinctive linguistic features is fortunately, done naturally and not like those “let’s sprinkle a few foreign words and call it a day” books.
Moving on, I think the pacing of the book is perfect for the first three quarters. It can be slow for some, but the amount of time created here is a suitable period during which Maggie is struggling. The pacing for the final quarter, however, is too fast. The ending appeared rushed, although it was clear that it was coming. I also found the final quarter to be too abrupt because I spent 3/4 of this book feeling like Maggie’s barely making any progress only for her to suddenly decide that that’s enough.
I know that this can perhaps be viewed as Maggie having an epiphany of sorts and there should be a moment when this occurs—but, the process of her reaching that epiphany and deciding (and attempting) to reach for that light at the end of the tunnel should be a little more drawn out. Speaking from personal experience, bouncing back and returning to what the average society deems as ‘normal’ is very difficult when you’re in a situation like Maggie’s.
With that said, The M Word is perhaps one of the most relatable books that I have read so far in my life. Language-wise, it was a little difficult for me. Story-wise, I found it powerful.