Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich
|Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Adaptation of the popular stage musical. A boy suffering from extreme anxiety finds friendship and popularity through a misunderstanding that turns into a snowballing lie. An absorbing and sympathetic read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: October 2018|
|Publisher: Poppy Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Evan Hansen spends a lot of time indoors by himself. This worries his mother, who has engaged a therapist to try to help Evan with his extreme anxiety issues. Evan's therapist assigns him the task of writing a daily letter to himself as a way of getting Evan to think more constructively about himself and the world around him. But Connor Murphy, a rather scary boy at school, finds one of Evan's letters and gets the wrong end of the stick because Evan has mentioned Zoe, the girl he has a crush on and who is Connor's sister.
Connor storms off with the letter and Evan is terrified that his secret crush will be outed. But this doesn't happen. Instead, Evan finds himself in the principal's office at school, faced with Connor's grieving parents. Connor has taken his own life and his parents have found Evan's letter. Suddenly, Dear Evan Hansen, Evan's letter to himself, is taken as Connor's suicide note.
What starts out as a misunderstanding that brings comfort to grieving parents turns into a tissue of escalating lies, which exacerbate Evan's anxiety. But at the same time, suddenly being seen as the best friend of a boy who died in tragic circumstances makes Evan popular at school. He has never been visible before and it's intoxicating...
... but deception can't last forever.
An adaption of the hit Broadway musical, Val Emmich's absorbing and relatable adaptation speaks very directly about mental health, youth suicide, the desire for visibility and the right to be remembered. Evan dominates the book and he holds the reader's attention so well. He is tremendously sympathetic but also deeply infuriating and you veer between wanting to give him a big old cuddle and an equally big old reality check. High school, with its pecking orders and its unforgiving mores, is also given a clear-eyed but non-judgemental treatment. The whole thing is very readable and I read it one intense sitting.
It's not perfect. I felt the exploration of mental health - in particular Evan's extreme anxiety - was underdone and I would have liked some more authoritative, well-researched passages about it. I would have liked to have seen the character of Zoe given more depth and interest. Both mothers also seemed underdeveloped as potentially valuable voices in the story. But nothing is perfect and Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel will find an appreciative audience among young people amid the turbulence of adolescence and hungry to find stories with characters searching for visibility and a place to belong.
It's not easy to write adaptations of cultural phenomenons and there are always people - like me, in the paragraph above! - ready with their nitpicks and their criticisms. But Val Emmich has done a good job here in translating a musical into a novel and hitting a tone that will resonate strongly with its target audience.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich at Amazon.com.
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