Summary: Thanks to a letter that was never meant to be seen, Evan Hansen finds himself drawn into a family’s grief over their lost so . Evan feels forced to stick to the lie that he never meant to tell, that he was Connor Murphy’s secret best friend. Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore- to the whole school and even to the girl of his dreams. Connor Murphy’s parents treat Evan as their own, and through it all, he finally feels like he belongs. No longer trapped by his anxiety, this new Evan Hansen has a purpose. Until things slowly, but surely start to unravel and Evan finds himself face to face with his biggest obstacle: himself.
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
As a DEH fan, I was highly anticipating the novelization of Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich. However, I admit that I was really nervous to pick up this book inspired by one of my favorite musicals. It almost feels like a reverse book-to-movie adaptation! Would DEH the novel live up to everything that is DEH the musical?
My answer? Yes and No.
The plot and message behind the novel is essentially the same as the musical: Evan, a lonely teenager with mental health issues of his own, finds himself in a situation he never wanted to be in, pretending to be Connor Murphy’s best friend. While the book is primarily told from Evan’s perspective, readers get more insight on the teens, like Zoe, Alana, and Jared. We see Zoe’s grief more and get more character development from her, and we learn how Jared and Alana are more similar to Evan than he may think. I also enjoyed songs and dialogue directly from the musical were implemented in the story. The text messages and Connor Project comment posts also were similar to the emphasis on technology on stage.
Yet, there were moments where I thought the book strayed too much from the musical or were just unnecessary. For example, Evan’s real name is Mark?? One major change from the musical to the book is Connor’s perspective. I appreciated getting to know Connor more, however, I felt the expansion of his storyline wasn’t necessary and even getting his perspective was unrealistic. While fans from the musical may look to better understand Connor, it almost felt like Thirteen Reasons Why for me, as if there had to be a specific reason for Connor’s death.
However, there were also moments where I thought the book could have strengthened through elements from the musical. One moment that stands out to me is Evan’s speech in front of the student body. It just didn’t feel as impactful to me in the book than it was in the musical. I feel like this would’ve been the perfect moment to almost directly put in what Evan sings in, “You Will Be Found.”
Overall, I think the readers who will most enjoy the novelization of Dear Evan Hansen are those who have not yet experienced DEH in any way (Broadway, listening to the soundtrack, Wikipedia page read-through,etc.) and perhaps DEH superfans. While I enjoyed this book for reminding me why I love DEH as a musical, I believe the balance between the musical and added plot elements could have been better executed.
This review is based on an advance reader copy. By no means did this affect my thoughts or opinions.
Are you a Dear Evan Hansen fan? Is this on your TBR? Share in the comments!