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!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (Book Review + The Legend of the Golden Raven Novella)

Publisher: Imprint
Page Count
: 305

CW: hallucinations, unhealthy co-dependency, negligent treatment of children, harmful behaviour and self-endangerment 

I’ve wanted to pick up The Wicker King ever since I saw a finished hardcover copy of it in a store in Canada almost 1.5 years ago. If you are a sucker for beautiful covers and extravagant design inside and outside of books, you will have a hard time resisting this one. Although I try to get better at not just buying books because of their beauty, the Wicker King definitely paid off.

All the superficial details aside, I honestly am glad I finally read the book. It’s not an easy read for sure, but it has lovely characters and such an important story to tell. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you don’t necessarily wonder as much about what is fantasy and what is reality as it might seem at first glance. I’ve had my fair share of books that mastered the art of completely bending your mind with the possibility of what might be happening, but there were very few doubts about the going ons in the Wicker King for me, which is probably why it was almost scary to read sometimes.

August and Jack are wonderful characters and I often just wanted to jump into the story and mother them, hug them and protect them. I did not agree with all the choices they made nor the behaviour they sometimes showed, but those boys did the best they could and deserved so much better. It’s not that I believe their parents didn’t love them, but they did a terrible job at it. Circumstances can make life hard and people crumble and break at times, but if you have kids, you really have to power through regardless. I know it’s easier said than done from where I am comfortably sitting childless behind a computer screen, but wow, did I wish that I could somehow help them and care for them, because their parents sure didn’t. In the end, it was good that they took care of each other, even if they could have done with a guardian in their lives.

There are a couple reasons I didn’t fully adore this book though and I think those are just very me reasons. While I love myself some short chapters, I was confused about the POV in the beginning (which is August’s by the way) and then felt like they hindered me from really connecting in some moments. I also didn’t love the continued hook ups, but my main sore point of the book was the relationship between August and Jack somehow. I liked that it was ambiguous in the beginning, because I am not the kind of person who just puts a romantic label on things just because I can. However, the longer I read on, the more I got afraid for them. They were so important for one another, so entangled in each other’s lives. The presence of August was like a necessity to Jack and vice versa. I understand that it’s one of the main points of the book, but it almost seemed unhealthy to me and therefore I couldn’t 100% root for them to be together. As I said though, this is a very me thing and maybe that worked perfectly fine for other people.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Definitely worth a read even if I didn’t click with every part of it.

If you know me, you also know that I am not much of a novella person, but The Legend of the Golden Raven was free for Kindle, I got it and really enjoyed it.

In only 40 pages, The Legend of the Golden Raven shows Jack’s condensed view of the events of The Wicker King. I thought that was a really neat addition to the main book and was happy to see a whole lot more magical/fantastical elements included. Obviously, the author couldn’t go into detail with it, but it still fills some gaps and rounds up the tale nicely.

It’s most likely not a must-read, but if you enjoyed the Wicker King, then I would recommend this as well.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! 

 

Have you read The Wicker King and it’s companion novella? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it!