A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings
A Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Best Book of Fall
“Filled with moments of tenderness and humor.” —Library Journal, Starred Review
An unexpected and poignant debut graphic memoir about a close-knit family approaching loss, and the wonder and joy they create along the way.
During Will Betke-Brunswick’s sophomore year of college, their beloved mother, Elizabeth, is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. They only have ten more months together, which Will documents in evocative two-color illustrations. But as we follow Will and their mom through chemo and hospital visits, their time together is buoyed by laughter, jigsaw puzzles, modern art, and vegan BLTs. In a delightful twist, Will portrays their family as penguins, and their friends are cast as a menagerie of birds. In between therapy and bedside chats, they navigate uniquely human challenges, as Will prepares for math exams, comes out as genderqueer, and negotiates familial tension.
A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings is an act of loving others and loving oneself, offering a story of coming-of-age, illness, death, and life that announces the arrival of a talented storyteller in Will Betke-Brunswick. At its heart, Will’s story is a celebration of a mother-child relationship filled with unconditional devotion, humor, care, and openness.
Life does not deliver a series of discrete events, but a tangle of overlapping experiences. The author was working on a mathematics degree, playing on a hockey team, and slowly coming out as trans and nonbinary when their mom was diagnosed with cancer. This book weaves memories from the author’s childhood with scenes from the last few months of their mother’s life into a tender story of acceptance, care, and love. The heavy moments are lightened by the portrayal of the family as penguins, with friends and strangers as a flock of other birds, but the story is deeply human.
—Maia Kobabe, author of Gender Queer
Will Betke-Brunswick’s A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings is a remarkable, but also chaotically specific, meditation on family and love. Will’s personable and charming penguins navigate through the months after their mother’s cancer diagnosis with an indomitable spirit and so so so much tender hilarity, even considering the subject matter. The rhythm of the lists Will uses in the book—final gifts from their mother, contents of a fridge, art in their house—are heartbreaking in how precisely they portray their family. I definitely have Strong Feelings about this book, and those feelings are largely that it is a stunning work that everyone ought to read.
—Shing Yin Khor, author of The American Dream?
Will has created a beautiful, heartwarming family portrait, told thoughtfully with perfect spaciousness and pacing. Grief and growing up felt so tactile and close as I read this book, cover to cover, ending in tears, thrilled to be brought there by penguins.
—Nicole J. Georges, author of Calling Dr. Laura