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The M Word

Written by Brian Conaghan

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The M Word Review

Family / Home Stories Featured Books for Young Adults General Fiction Gritty Reads Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE)

A raw and honest novel of grief, depression and self-harm, underpinned by hope, heart-warming humour and unforgettable Maggie

Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021

Hitting rock bottom, hanging on, and coming back from the edge. Brian Conaghan has an incredible talent for telling it like it is. His characters are authentic and absorbing; flawed underdogs with serious troubles, like 17-year-old Maggie whose dad “drank his liver into a spreadable pâté”, and whose laid-off dinner lady mum is “gifted in the art of attracting pure dickheads”. And Maggie? Maggie’s “an island: the way I dress; the music I listen to; the patter my brain discharges; everything”.

Maggie’s struggling to deal with the tragic loss of her best friend Moya whose death she feels excruciatingly guilty about. Moya was a “mad riot” of a girl, but as Maggie “couldn’t be arsed with all the love-struck vom” Moya was spewing, because she didn’t speak out against the Internet trolls, she believes she was a “failure friend”.

Alongside her grief, guilt and self-harm, Maggie struggles with her mother’s severe depression, but also tingles with the hope that comes from starting art college: “now’s the time to make something of myself.” Indeed, she soon forms a band with new friends. Throughout, Maggie’s love of bands like The Smiths looms large, as does her relationship with her depressed mother. Maggie’s rage at her mother’s condition derives entirely from her primal love for her. She’s desperate for Mum to be happy, and her scheme to help her find happiness is heart-achingly poignant.

Grief, depression, self-harm, online abuse, this novel is no walk in the park, yet it never drags the reader down. On the contrary. It’s sensitive, insightful, funny (Maggie is a master of biting one-liners), and genuinely uplifting as Maggie and Mum begin to find their way back to the world, with glinting prospects of love and new life.

Joanne Owen

The M Word Synopsis

Moya. The M Word. Whisper it. Conceal it. But please, never mention it ...

Maggie Yates talks to her best mate Moya every day. She tells her about Maggie's mum losing her job. She tells her that Mum's taken to not opening the curtains and crying in secret. And she tells her about how she plans to cheer Mum up - find her a fella with a bit of cash to splash. Moya is with her every step of the way. You're surfing a rainbow if you think someone like that exists round here, she smiles. But I'll help. But at the back of her mind Maggie knows that Mum's crying is more than sadness. That there are no easy fixes. And that Moya's not really there. Because though she talks to her every day, Moya died months ago ...

An unforgettable novel about grief and healing from Costa and Irish Book Award-winner Brian Conaghan.

The M Word Press Reviews

The M Word delivered everything I expect from Conaghan: searingly inventive language; characters with their emotional dials turned all the way up; a journey through real-world trauma that feels authentic and really connects. And add funny to that list - properly, genuinely funny. A welcome addition to an already-outstanding body of work - Martin Stewart, author of Riverkeep

Praise for The Weight of a Thousand Feathers;

‘Conaghan shines a light on the world of teenage carers and poses powerful moral questions about the lengths we are
prepared to go to for the ones we love.’ The Bookseller, Ones to Watch

‘Brian Conaghan has done it again. Uncompromising, gritty, laced with a black humour this is a novel that you live...An extraordinary book to be recommended to thoughtful, enquiring readers prepared to take a step into the dark.’ Books for Keeps

An emotional rollercoaster of a book, written with so much heart it bounces off of the page. The darkness is balanced by cracking dialogue and humour. A bold, life-affirming read' - Irish Independent 

Conaghan is a sublime storyteller who can make the reader hang on his every last word (and all of the others) ... Conaghan is sensitive and the dark plot retains a lightness - Alex O'Connell, Sunday Times Book of the Week

Praise for The Bombs That Brought Us Together;

‘Witty and morally complicated…The book is full of resonance for the wider contemporary world: violence, racism, radicalisation, the rise of nationalism. It is certainly pacy, sassy and twisty.’ – Sunday Times, Children’s Book of the Week

“Punctuated with smatterings of hilarious off-piste humour, this aptly titled novel cleverly explores how love and friendship can blossom even in the face of profound personal and political turmoil.” - The Scotsman

Praise for We Come Apart;

‘This is a verse novel, consummately crafted, where the position of each word on the page is as important as its meaning… a beautiful tale of love, hope and survival.’ Guardian

‘Complex and original…The outlook may seem bleak, but don’t be put off: this beautifully crafted novel has genuine joy at its heart for the light and hope that friendship can bring in a chaotic, unpredictable world.’ Observer

Praise for When Mr Dog Bites;

‘Conaghan’s eyes and ears are perceptively attuned to the colourful excesses, linguistic and otherwise, of his cast of adolescents.’ The Irish Times

‘The strong point of Conaghan’s book is the character of Dylan, sometimes intensely naïve, he is always a three-dimensional and utterly credible character.’ Books for Keeps

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781408871577
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781408871560
Publication date: 05/09/2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781408871577
Publication date: 2nd April 2020
Author: Brian Conaghan
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 352 pages
Suitable for: YA readers
Genres: Family / Home Stories, General Fiction, Gritty Reads, Personal Social Health Economic

About Brian Conaghan

Brian Conaghan was born and raised in the Scottish town of Coatbridge but now lives in Dublin. He has a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. For many years Brian worked as a teacher and taught in Scotland, Italy and Ireland. His novels include The Boy Who Made it Rain, When Mr Dog Bites, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Medal, and The Bombs That Brought Us Together, published in 2016, winning the 2016 Costa Children's Book Award.

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