Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Book Review)

Publisher: Penguin
Page Count
: 358

CW: anxiety, depression, suicide

If you are like me and you struggle to connect with musicals (even if I do occasionally adore some of them *cough* Hamilton *cough*), you will be happy to hear that there is a novel based on the hit show that is Dear Evan Hansen. I say this like it’s big news, but really, the book has been out for a year already. And I do even know and like some of the songs from the show, but I am not among the fortunate few who might get to experience it live and just listening to the songs gives me limited amount of joy, so I was really happy to dive into this in a more traditional book-format.

In all seriousness though, I was prepared to sob my way through this book from all I had heard, but I didn’t actually cry until very close to the end. It’s not that there isn’t inherent sadness to it all, but something about the way it was written and told just made it a very fast-paced and easy read for me. I don’t remember the last time I devoured a book in less than two days … Nonetheless, that didn’t keep me from connecting with the book on an emotional level too!

“If the pain is in you, it’s in you. It follows you everywhere. Can’t outrun it. Can’t erase it. Can’t push it away; it only comes back. The way I’ve been thinking, after all that’s happened, maybe there’s only one way to survive it. You have to let it in. Let it hurt you. And don’t wait. It’ll reach you eventually. Might as well be now.”

Evan Hansen is, at least to me, a deeply relatable character. He suffers from severe anxiety, feels lonely and like he doesn’t fit in. Although he has a very loving parent in his life, he feels expectations of what he should be and how he should act weighing him down and ultimately it leads to him making some really, really bad decisions out of fear. I cannot say that I have done anything nearly as terrible as what Evan did, but I like that the book did not try to make excuses for him. Not once did I feel as if this was a redemption storyline, but rather a plea to own up to your mistake, clearly communicate with the people you care about and maybe, just maybe, there is always someone in a similar situation as yourself, so don’t give up.

“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?”

If I had to criticize one part of it all, it would probably be the love story. I get that everyone handles grief differently, but the way this was told felt a bit off. But then again, so many of the decisions made were beyond questionable, so I don’t even know if you could consider that specific part strange. My head just wasn’t really in it, because all I really wanted was for Evan and Connor to have gotten the chance to be friends for real.

I obviously can’t attest to any of the differences between the musical and the book, however, from what I gathered from others, the book definitely expands on the story and the inner thoughts of the characters (which is neither good nor bad, but just a thing that comes with it being a different format that allows more content than a musical). As someone who did not know all the songs and all the details of what Dear Evan Hansen would be about, I can say that it’s a book you can definitely pick up if you haven’t had anything to do with the musical! 

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A heartfelt and relatable story about mistakes, loss, grief, family and much more!

Have you heard of the musical? Have you read the book? Do you want to? Let’s chat!

12 thoughts on “Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Book Review)

  1. I didn’t love this book. I like the musical a lot, but to read it like this was just not fun. But my biggest issue with it was the Connor parts. In the musical, we don’t find out why Connor kills himself. Connor isn’t really developed as a character. But in the book he’s gay and got this whole secret past and it just feels like pandering, like a fanfiction.

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    • Hmmm, I guess I can understand your quarrels with it. I really only knew 4-5 songs from the musical and found the Connor POV very helpful, so maybe it was better for me to know abotu all this. But I’d like to point out that Connor is fluid.

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  2. I saw the musical a few weeks back. And while it did make me teary at one point, I thought that it mishandled some of its themes and didn’t always pull me in. Still, I liked the novelization. Which i didn’t know existed until you told me on Twitter.

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  3. I had no idea that this was a book. I had a quick listen to the soundtrack, and while I like some of the songs, the replayability isn’t the best. Anyway, I’m glad that the book doesn’t try to make excuses for him and treats Hansen’s story as a redemption arc. It’s refreshing to see characters having to own up to their mistakes. Based on what I know of the story, I don’t feel like it’s one that requires a love story. I can’t say I’ll read it, but you never know. Awesome review. 😀

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    • Yeah, I guess the musical was so successful that they wanted to expand on the story. From what I hear, there’s a lot of gaps in the story in the musical, so this was really the perfect way. And I enjoyed it a lot like this, because I agree, the songs aren’t bad but not universally repeatable.

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