Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel was written by Val Emmich. It is, of course, based on the Tony award winning musical by Steven Levenson, Benk Pasek and Justin Paul. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my girls and I have been listening to the DEH soundtrack since the spring.
Evan Hansen is a high school boy with anxiety. He’s supposed to be writing inspirational letters to himself as a therapeutic exercise. One of these letters ends up with Connor Murphy, who commits suicide in an unrelated incident. When the Murphys find the letter, they believe that Connor wrote the letter to Evan. Instead of telling the truth, Evan allows the Murphys to believe that he was Connor’s best friend and fabricates an entire relationship. This desperately lonely boy finally has people paying attention to what he has to say, but it’s all for the wrong reasons. He has everything he could ever want, but it’s all based on lies. How can he tell the truth now?
I have not seen the musical, but from what I understand, the narrative delves much deeper than the stage production. Readers get to hear more of Connor’s perspective and some of the underlying issues that he struggled with. I enjoyed being able to connect the storyline with the songs I recognize.
This is such a beautiful book. It’s easy to empathize with Evan and his struggles with anxiety. He has always hovered in the background, longing to fit in, but not really knowing how to achieve that goal. Being known as Connor’s friend thrusts him into the spotlight, and creating the Connor Project to raise awareness about teen suicide helps Evan’s popularity, but the moral quandary about whether he should tell the truth hangs over him.
My oldest girl is eleven, and my twins are nine years old. I know how much they enjoy listening to the soundtrack; they know all the words to the songs. I knew that the serious subject matter might be a bit overwhelming for them, so I wanted to read the book by myself before sharing it with them. I think my twins are a little young, but I do plan on sharing this book with my oldest daughter.
I would absolutely recommend Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel to fans of YA books and fans of the musical as well. I do think that some familiarity with the musical helps, but it’s not a mandatory prerequisite for enjoying this book. Since I haven’t seen the musical, this novel gave me a better understanding of the plot. I think that Emmich does a wonderful job with taking an existing storyline and adding new layers of depth and insight.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.