Teen drama feels like be­ing wel­comed home

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Books - by Gemma McLaugh­lin

Dear Evan Hansen- The Novel By Val Em­mich, Steven Leven­son, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Grand Cen­tral Pub­lish­ing

For this re­view I went in with a lit­tle bit of knowl­edge, as be­fore I knew this book ex­isted I had lis­tened to the mu­si­cal. It was be­cause of my pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with Dear Evan Hansen that I was so ex­cited to get into this book and gain a deeper un­der­stand­ing of a plot I adore. Al­though the story is told from the per­spec­tive of Evan Hansen, the novel be­gins with a beau­ti­ful and painful mes­sage from Con­nor Mur­phy, per­fectly set­ting up the tone for the book and it’s very first plot twist.

When we truly be­gin we are in­tro­duced to Evan Hansen, a teenager who is so clearly lost in his own world. We learn about the many trou­bles he has faced in his youth and be­gin to sym­pa­thise as we find out that dur­ing the sum­mer he broke his arm fall­ing out of a tree and no one came for him for ten min­utes. This is ma­nip­u­lated to be a fit­ting metaphor for how Evan feels alone, with only his mother, his ther­a­pist, and the mo­ti­va­tional let­ters he writes ev­ery morn­ing to him­self. It is these let­ters that earn the book it’s ti­tle and the main plot point for the novel, Dear Evan Hansen.

Due to a se­ries of com­pli­ca­tions and a lost let­ter Evan is thrown into an im­pos­si­ble to nav­i­gate web of lies. It all started when Con­nor Mur­phy, a strange enigma of a young man and the brother to Zoe Mur­phy (Evan’s crush), signed Evan’s cast and promptly stole his let­ter. Con­nor then com­mits sui­cide, shortly af­ter the let­ter is mis­taken to have been writ­ten from him­self to Evan. Evan takes on the role of a won­der­fully flawed pro­tag­o­nist as he de­cides to keep up this lie and al­most take Con­nor’s place in the fam­ily, al­low­ing us a peek into a whirl­wind of lies, fear, and some truly mean­ing­ful lessons.

The theme which most res­onated with me was Evan’s place as an out­sider, a mis­fit, some­what in­vis­i­ble. I dare any­one who has ever felt like that, felt like ev­ery­one who cares doesn’t re­ally care, like you’re just a side char­ac­ter in the book of your own life, like you’re float­ing above ev­ery­one you love, not to cry while read­ing a flaw­less rep­re­sen­ta­tion of all those feel­ings. The way this book made me feel so con­nected, and so im­mersed in a si­t­u­a­tion that I will by all like­li­hood never be in, is some­thing that I can­not ex­press with any­thing other than telling ev­ery­one I pos­si­bly can to just read it. This book feels to me like be­ing wel­comed home, be­ing told that ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be al­right.

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