The Cardinal Spirit

The Cardinal Spirit

Dear Evan Hansen: A Book Review

Roxy Lockard, Staff Reporter

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Chances are, at some point, you have heard the phrase “Dear Evan Hansen.” Whether it be through a friend obsessed with the hit Broadway musical, seeing the title flood your newsfeed as it wins countless awards, or just by your own curiosity, it is certainly a popular topic at the moment. Since its debut on December 4, 2016, it has touched the hearts of millions, and people from all over the country are traveling to watch.  Even SCHS’s own choral students have the option to see this musical during their upcoming trip to New York in the spring. For someone looking to dive into this Broadway sensation, the soundtrack is wonderful, but one misses a lot of details. That’s where the novel comes in: Dear Evan Hansen, written by Val Emmich with the show’s creators Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul, condenses the play into a young adult novel anyone can read.

The musical and novel adaptation centers around high school senior Evan Hansen, who struggles with severe social anxiety. After one of his therapy letters to himself, titled “Dear Evan Hansen,” mistakenly ends up in the hands of a student who commits suicide, Evan is caught in a web of accidental white lies as he pretends to be the best friend of the student, the infamously dark Connor Murphy. Through this lie he never meant to tell, Evan finds himself in the life he always wanted to have–a functional family, a girlfriend, and a place out of the shadows.  The novel Dear Evan Hansen is engaging, taking you on an exciting ride of a story, with surprises, heartfelt moments, and humor along the way. You get to live through Evan’s eyes, and get a deeper look into his life and thoughts. Moreover, the novel does a beautiful job of realistically portraying mental illness, and its effect on personal lives.   

The novel Dear Evan Hansen is engaging, taking you on an exciting ride of a story, with surprises, heartfelt moments, and humor along the way. You get to live through Evan’s eyes, and get a deeper look into his life and thoughts. Moreover, the novel does a beautiful job of realistically portraying mental illness, and its effect on personal lives.”

 

As someone who understands the struggles of mental illness, I felt that the book expressed Evan’s -and others- anxiety, Connor’s suicide, and more in a delicate manner that is easy to comprehend, and relatable to many of today’s teenagers. The book does not shy away from what is the sadly devastating truth behind youth suicide and mental illness. Fans of the musical that can not afford or travel to see the smash hit musical will greatly appreciate this novel, for it compacts the beloved show into a novel that provides one with all the missing scenes and beyond, detailing more moments that were glossed over in the musical, such as chapters containing Connor’s perspective of his life and eventual death. It also introduces a new character that is not present in the show. Overall, Dear Evan Hansen is a powerful contemporary read, for musical fans and newbies alike.

Unfortunately, no book can be absolutely perfect. The musical Dear Evan Hansen is world-renowned for its deeply emotional soundtrack that leaves every listener in tears, regardless of who you are–there’s a song that is going to make you ugly cry. In the process of transforming the story from stage to page, the songs had to be woven into dialogue or scenes. In doing so, the book sadly lost a great deal of the emotional depth presented in the musical, and was almost a watered-down retelling, losing the characteristic that makes the story so special. Moreover, as an avid fan of Dear Evan Hansen, I was greatly looking forward to the supporting characters being more thoroughly fleshed-out in the book, as there is only so much you can say in a 2 and a half hour play. Yet, disappointingly, the side characters remained ever as two-dimensional- many of the female characters had absolutely no characterization whatsoever.The author missed a great opportunity to bring more life into the supporting roles, which knocked a star off the book for me.

To wrap it all up, Dear Evan Hansen is a solid 4-star novel, being a lovely adaptation of the musical, but lacking some desired dimension amongst the characters and plot. Beyond the quintessential young adult novel, Dear Evan Hansen brings a new spin to what it means to be grateful, and the true impact your voice has on the world. Anyone will be able to appreciate Evan’s story, and this novel will stay in your mind for years to come.

Recommended Order: As a long-time Dear Evan Hansen fan, this is my personal suggested order in which to immerse yourself into this story.

  • For “newbies”- Start with the book, and listen to the soundtrack as you go, so you can easily connect the plot and get the best of both worlds.

For seasoned fans or those who have already listened to the soundtrack- Revisit the soundtrack before you start the novel, so you can compare the book and songs and receive the full experience. Follow up with Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window, which is the full libretto (or script) of the musical, with behind-the-scenes information and photographs, to get a full perspective of the plot!

1 Comment

One Response to “Dear Evan Hansen: A Book Review”

  1. Shanea Sincell on November 20th, 2018 11:22 am

    It sounds amazing, honestly. I’ll read it sometime. Great job on the article, I now know the good yet bad sides of the play.

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