Today I am going to be doing a book review of Dear Evan Hansen the Novel by Val Emmich! If you don’t know, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is the novelization of the well-known musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’. The story is about a boy called Evan Hansen, who feels like he is invisible and suffers from anxiety. One day he runs into Connor Murphy and from there on he gets sucked into a families life and grief, but most of all he has a chance to finally do something that matters. I found the soundtrack to this musical just this summer and immediately fell in love. When I found out that they were turning it into a book in only a few short months from that point, I almost cried. The soundtrack alone means so much to me, so I could only imagine what the book was going to do to me and I can tell you now that I was not disappointed! I’m sure it is no surprise to you that I gave this book 5/5 stars, but now let’s get into the review, which, as usual isn’t going to have much structure. this is also a Spoiler-Free review, so everyone can read it! I will put a trigger warning on the book and this post for suicide and anxiety, so if you’re not comfortable reading about them then maybe skip this post.
The first thing I want to talk about is just how damn relatable Evan Hansen is. He suffers with anxiety, his mum doesn’t really get it, he feels alone and seems to be invisible to everyone around him and doesn’t really know what he is going to do with his life, but just as long as he doesn’t have to do anything that involves other people he’ll probably be happy. I relate to every single aspect of Evan Hansen and I cannot express just how much seeing that representation means to me. There is quite a lot of representation for anxiety in literature these days and is probably one of the most talked about mental health issues, but I feel like this book had a little something extra. I personally suffer with severe anxiety and have very few friends. I do feel invisible a lot while I’m at school and most of my classmates don’t even know my name, so it was really nice to be able to relate to Evan in that way as well.
“Today is going to be a good day and here’s why: because today, at least you’re you and that’s enough.”
The other character I really loved was Alana because she reminds me so much of myself. I am a highly motivated person who always puts 110% into everything I do and I tend to get frustrated when working with other people because they don’t care as much as I do or don’t put as much effort in, which is why I generally do things alone (plus I actually do things quicker by myself) and this was the case for Alana as well. She put so much work into the Connor Project and didn’t receive the same kind of enthusiasm from anyone else, which I know from experience can be really hurtful. I also really love Alana because she is part of the ‘invisible crowd’ like Evan, but seems to be even more invisible than him. She isn’t even noticed by other people on the same rung of the social ladder as her and I also feel like that sometimes. She didn’t get any credit for the work she did either as that all went to Evan when he hardly even did that much, so I honestly think she was my favourite characters even though she was more of a side character. I also really loved Zoe and both Evan’s and Zoe’s mum.
I’m going to come back to some of the other characters and the family dynamics in a minute, but I wanted to break it up a bit by talking about the ending. Don’t worry no spoilers, but I just want to say that I really loved the ending because there wasn’t any sort of revelation where everything is suddenly okay, Evan suddenly doesn’t have anxiety and everyone gets together with their high school crush. The ending is real and raw and all of the characters are still struggling and thinking about things even a year later, which is so much more realistic. We don’t just forgive and forget overnight or suddenly become magically better. Life seems to be a slow and constant uphill struggle, so I am glad that was shown.
Now back to the characters: I wanted to talk about the family dynamics in this story and specifically the Murphy family. I personally hated Mr Murphy, not because he was a badly written character, but because he was a very well-written one and it made me angry. I understand that dealing with anyone who has a mental illness can be difficult, especially a child, but the way he treated Connor and the way her continued to talk about him after the incident makes me incredibly angry. I myself suffer with depression and I know that the way Mr Murphy behaves is the way a lot of parents behave and to me that is unacceptable. He was an excellently written character, but I just wish I could say it wasn’t realistic.
Something I really loved about the whole Murphy family though was the realistic dynamic that they had. It wasn’t all happy families, they fought, there was a lot of tension between different people, some just wanted to make up, the parents couldn’t agree on how to raise their kids etc., which is so much more realistic than a lot of other family dynamics I have read. They have a similar family dynamic to the one that I personally had at home a few years ago, so I felt like I could really relate to a lot of aspects in those situations, especially Zoe. It was also nice to see all of the members of the family being fully-fleshed characters and not only properly develop a few key ones, which I find happens a lot when you read about families. Someone always seems to get left out and just turns into a cardboard cut out.
“No one deserves to Disappear!“
The final thing I really wanted to talk a bit in depth about is the representation of suicide because I felt it was done incredibly well. It was written in a sensitive way, but it was still perfectly real, which I think is the thing a lot of people struggle to balance. I specifically found the representation of it all being very spur of the moment. As I mentioned earlier, I myself suffer with depression and I find that when I am in one of my ‘black moods’ as I like to call them, I struggle to see reason and I do do things very impulsively. I can’t see passed the current moment or the thing that has put me in this mood, which I think is the case for a lot of people and is often when people tend to commit suicide. Overall I just think the whole topic was handled very well and was clearly incredibly well-research before hand and I am incredibly impressed and thankful that we have this sort of representation.
That is it for this book review, so I hope you enjoyed it and I hope that you are all going to go and read it now or at least listen to the soundtrack! I’m sure you can tell by now that I adored this book and that I have a lot of feelings about it. I almost cried several times while writing this, which I think says a lot! Have you read Dear Evan Hansen? Have you seen the play? I’d love to know, so leave a comment down below or come and chat to me over on my Instagram (@theoriginalbookdragon)! If you’ve read Dear Evan Hansen and just want to chat about all the feels with me then definitely DM me on Instagram and we can talk all about it!
Goodbye for now!
Over and Out