ARC provided by NOVL in exchange for an honest review
Title: Dear Evan Hansen
Author: Val Emmich
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
My Rating: ★★★
From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen.
Dear Evan Hansen,
Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…
When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.
Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?
No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.
A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.
I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t totally in love with the this book, and it wasn’t because of the writing. The writing was phenomenal, the characters were well developed, and the overall story was fast paced and easy to read. I loved that it brought so many mental health topics to the table, but there were a few things that made me feel uncomfortable, which I will talk about here in a bit.
First I’ll mention the trigger warnings: suicide, self harm, bullying, anxiety, depression.
Dear Evan Hansen follows Evan, a high school senior who has horrible anxiety. Under the direction of his doctor, he writes a letter to himself each day. But things don’t go so well one day when a letter to himself ends up in the wrong hands. And, unrelated to that letter, a classmate commits suicide. Due to a misunderstanding, the parents of that classmate finds Evan’s letter. What happens next is a series of events that chronicles grief, mental health, and how powerful the role of social media plays in this day and age.
While I truly did enjoy reading this book and getting to understand Evan, I felt uncomfortable with how suicide was used as a tool for Evan’s “fame”. So although I appreciated the message behind this book, and I was totally rooting for Evan to come out of his shell and discover himself, I was disappointed that someone had to die by suicide for his character to develop.
But what bothered me the most was Evan’s constant lying. Just so many lies to a grieving family, to his girlfriend, to his mother. I grew more and more uncomfortable as he fell deeper into those lies and his internet notoriety grew. The grieving family took him in and treated him as their son, and yet he just kept lying to them. Over and over. I just… felt so bad.
So, as you can imagine, I was simply dreading the end of this book, because you just know things are going to totally blow up. Which leads me to this: the ending wrapped up rather abruptly and fast when I was just expecting something more.
But I truly did love the message and themes behind this book, and that certain characters were able to find peace. I also believe the overall awareness this book brought to mental health is so important and cannot be ignored. I know this book (and musical) means so much to so many people, so I still encourage you to pick this up (if you’re in the right head space). I just think this book may have not been 100% for me, and that’s totally okay. I still enjoyed my time reading this and hope you will too.