This review is spoiler free.
“I wish that everything was different. I wish that I was a part of something. I wish that anything I said mattered, to anyone. I mean, let’s face it: would anybody even notice if I disappeared tomorrow?”
Published: 2018, by Penguin Books.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, LGBT
Contains: Mental Health, Mental Illness, Suicide, Suicidal Thoughts, Self Injury, Drugs/Alcohol, Medication, Bullying, Anxiety, Depression, Divorce, Rehabilitation Centre/Psychiatric Hospitals
Based on the Broadway show of the same name, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ follows Evan, a high school senior trapped in his incapacitating anxiety. When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone other than his therapist is given to a family grieving over the sudden death of their son, Evan is forced to play along with what was once a harmless lie; he was Connor Murphy’s secret best friend.
I’ve always had problems with novelisations, finding that they sound too forced when adapted from their original format. However, after watching the announcement of the novel at YALC last year, I knew I’d have to push my opinions aside for this book. Although, I didn’t know much about Dear Evan Hansen apart from the musical’s songs, this was a mostly positive experience.
Evan Hansen is an incredibly imperfect character. The entire novel concept is based around a lie he’s told, causing a multitude of emotions to flow from the pages; regret, confusion, fear. Yet, Evan continues to play along with the story he’s fabricated, falling deeper and deeper into the lie. This characterisation was brilliant to read, the narrative flowing easily through these emotions. Although, Evan knows the possible consequences of his actions, he continues to believe he’s doing the right thing, finding that his lie is a comfort to many of those around him. This narrative brings the character to life; Evan is human, he makes mistakes, and he eventually learns from them. Some of the other characters, however, kinda fell flat to me. The concentration is entirely on Evan, being written in the first person, yet there was very little to say about the secondary characters. This is a habit of novelisations, seeming to assume that those reading would be familiar with the characters prior to reading the novel. Zoe’s character was fairly bland, seeming to exist to purely be the reluctant, grieving younger sister. The relationship between her and Evan was almost immediate, not even establishing it before referring to each other as a couple. Jared’s character, however, thankfully had more depth. His character developed more as the story progressed, his humour continuing to be a joy across the pages, until the end where he suited a bigger role than to simply be the comic relief.
The writing itself is beautiful. The narrative flows at a steady pace, while the language, especially in Evan’s letters and the emotional description was wonderful to read. Although, it can be fairly hard-hitting on occasion, especially for those who may relate to the themes in the novel, the language used is accurate and respectful to the illnesses explored.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. Although, it has its downfalls, I feel as if they’re more to do with the fact this was modified from a play-script than a fault of the writers.