Dear Evan Hansen – Val Emmich

Stars: ****

Evan Hansen has always found it hard to belong – he suffers a huge amount of social anxiety and goes to therapy to help him cope. He is asked to write a letter to himself each morning to help create positive affirmations. But, one day he writes a truthful letter; one which explains how he really feels. About life. His anxiety. The girl who doesn’t notice him.

Everything changes over the next few days when that letter is discovered with Connor Murphy, who took his own life. Connor has been notoriously troubled during his time at school and was often a social pariah, who had no friends. Now that he has Evan’s letter though, everyone believes they were best friends, including Connor’s family; a family which includes the girl Evan thought didn’t see him – Zoe.

The easiest thing for Evan to do is go along with what people are saying – it is helping Connor’s family deal with their grief but also makes him a popular, important member of his school cohort. He finally isn’t invisible anymore and…he enjoys it. When the lie grows and means he needs to actively make choices to keep it going, he battles with knowing the right thing to do.

He thinks he’s doing the right thing, but if that’s the case, why does it feel wrong?

I’ve always wanted to see ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ the musical, but also wanted to read the book first. I’ve heard how emotional the story is and how much the reader will connect with it, on some level; I was recommended it several times.

I wasn’t disappointed. Throughout the book, which is written mainly from Evan’s point of view, you develop real empathy for a range of characters. The way each of them grows through the story is realistic but also provides a number of insights into different problems teens will come across in school.

When I was at school, a boy in the year above me who I was in a swimming club with (but didn’t know well at all), took his own life. On a much smaller scale than in this book, you heard people explaining how they knew him – or the family – almost staking a claim to some sympathy. Dear Evan Hansen was written in a way which encapsulates this very sensitive topic in a way that allows the experience to be shared to develop understanding.

People are all different and it matters how we treat them.

Some chapters within the book were written from the point of view of Connor. This added a further dynamic layer to the story, showing the reader more about the thought process he had entered into. By no means, does this give the reader any concept of what might lead someone to take their own life: it is much more complex, I’m sure, than a book allows a reader to infer. However, having his character interject his own view on the developing events after he is gone really adds impact to the book – and on the reader.

I won’t lie, there were many times during this book where I found myself tearing up – it is definitely an emotional read, but one that should, at some point, find its way on to your TBR pile.

Like the sound of this book? Buy it here:

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