Author Val Emmich has collaborated with the hit Broadway musical’s creators to bring Evan’s story to young adult readers.
By the time you have read the first two chapters of this beautifully told story you don’t feel quite so alone in the world – whether or not you have suffered with social anxiety like Evan does or any other mental health issue. With this retelling of the Broadway musical’s story (rumoured to be coming to London at some point), Val Emmich has taken the original story that Steven Levenson created and transformed it into something even more accessible for those yet to see the stage show.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Dear Evan Hansen follows the transformation of Evan’s life following the tragic death of a classmate. But due to a misunderstanding that leads to a lie, he is drawn closer to the classmate’s family but in doing so also finds a new confidence and way forward in his own life.
The way in which Emmich brings Evan’s thoughts and social anxiety to life is so well done that it offers a real insight into what it is like to live day in and day out with this condition. The reader really hears his voice and despite the unintentional lie that he tells – something beautiful does emerge from it that offers comfort for Connor’s family (particularly when the idea of The Connor Project comes about). But it also in turn offers Evan a place to discover who he really is and to help him push past the loneliness and isolation that he feels from his own family.
Throughout the book, Dear Evan Hansen deals with some hard hitting issues not least suicide and mental health as well as the impact of grief and loneliness that exists in families. Each topic is handled with great sensitivity and with perceptiveness that keeps the reader thoroughly engaged, while enlightening them at the same time. It is a story that enhances the importance of communication and how we should all help each other to prevent loneliness.
While the majority of the story is told from Evan’s point of view, there are some lovely sections that show the similarities between Connor and Evan – even if these similarities are sadly too late to be realised by either of them, leaving the reader wondering whether they would have been friends if they had found the strength to communicate with each other in the way that Evan pretends that they did.
It is a genuinely heartwarming and perceptive read that highlights just how important the whole issue of mental health is these days – particularly seeing as people are relying more on social media rather than actually speaking to each other. But Dear Evan Hansen never comes across as preachy, it is a well grounded and thought out book that touches the heart.
By Emma Clarendon
Dear Evan Hansen is published by Penguin Random House on the 9th October.