The book that be­came a fab­u­lous hit mu­si­cal

Hastings Leader - - News -

Dear Evan Hansen — Val Em­mich (Pen­guin, $26) re­viewed by Louise Ward, War­dini Books

Evan Hansen is a young man with no real friends and an anx­i­ety dis­or­der.

His ther­a­pist has him write af­firm­ing let­ters to him­self to bol­ster his con­fi­dence.

Evan mostly treats this task as a piece of home­work he has to do to get his mum and Dr Sher­man off his back. The one day he ac­tu­ally writes the truth about how he views the world (friend­less and hope­less with one ray of hope in the form of Zoe, a girl he ad­mires) the let­ter is in­ter­cepted by Zoe’s scary brother, Con­nor and Evan is left dread­ing ex­po­sure and ridicule.

A few days later Evan is called to a meet­ing with Con­nor’s par­ents; Con­nor has killed him­self and Evan’s let­ter was found in his pocket. As the let­ter be­gins ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ Con­nor’s par­ents as­sume that Con­nor wrote it to Evan — a fi­nal out­pour­ing to the close friend they never knew he had. Evan tries to tell them the truth but their grief is so thick and their hope that Con­nor ac­tu­ally had one friend so des­per­ate that he is un­able to clear the air. The sit­u­a­tion es­ca­lates, big time.

The novel ex­plores anx­i­ety, mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the ter­rors of high school, along with the strange chance of pop­u­lar­ity that Evan finds he is given. The school com­mu­nity thinks he was Con­nor’s friend and this lends him a mor­bid glam­our. Con­nor’s par­ents and sis­ter treat him like fam­ily and he de­vel­ops a new sense of be­long­ing.

Dear Evan Hansen, also a stage mu­si­cal, is writ­ten with sen­si­tiv­ity and hu­mour. It deals with the big stuff along with teen dif­fi­cul­ties and shows how peo­ple can grow through loss and ad­ver­sity. Evan is an en­ter­tain­ing char­ac­ter — he doesn’t take him­self too se­ri­ously and gives a light tone to a dark sub­ject. Poignant, gen­tly amus­ing and em­i­nently read­able.

‘It deals with the big stuff along with more usual teen dif­fi­cul­ties and shows how peo­ple can grow through loss and ad­ver­sity.’

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