Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich* – Book Review

TW: mention of suicide

*This book was written by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why...

To help with 17-year-old Evan Hansen’s social anxiety, his therapist suggests he writes letters to himself; mini pep-talks to help him feel more confident and in control. Of course, these letters are never meant to be seen by anyone else. One letter is taken by Connor Murphy, social outcast and bully, and it’s found by his family when he commits suicide – they believe that Evan was Connor’s confidant. Grasping on to any glimpse into their son’s secretive life, the Murphy’s feel like Evan is their only connection to Connor, a way for them to hold on to him.

Evan feels like he has no choice but to lie, and enlists friend Jared to write fake emails between the duo to prove that they were secret pals. All of a sudden, Evan is pulled into the spotlight – he’s no longer invisible in the corridors or classrooms. Soon, Evan won’t be able to keep up with the web of lies, and will have to face the uncomfortable truth, but the world is seeing him in a way they hadn’t before. He must ask himself what’s more important: being honest or giving a grieving family something they never had.

First and foremost, I have to mention that this books contains suicide and self-harm mentions fairly frequently in the book. I personally think that you have to be in a good place mentally to read this book, because it’s immersive nature may be too much for some. I’ll discuss this later on in my blog post.

When this book first came out, in 2018, I was interested to find out who the book was aimed at. There are plenty of musicals based on books (think Les Mis, Oliver Twist and The Phantom of The Opera) but I couldn’t find any books based off musicals. That being said, I can’t think of a musical out that fits as well into the YA genre (apart from those based in high schools like Mean Girls and Heathers) as Dear Evan Hansen, so seeing it turned into novel form makes sense. I’m quite into musicals, and while I’m pretty familiar with Dear Evan Hansen, it’s not my favourite – the songs are the most important part of a musical for me, and there are some good tunes, but they’re not really to my taste.

So, bearing that in mind, I knew the songs and the plot of Dear Evan Hansen before I dived into the book. There’s quite a lot of dialogue that is lifted straight out of the musical. Musicals are very quotable, and many fans will know the script of the show inside out, so the book was predictable in the way that I often knew which words or scene were coming next. This may be a good thing or a bad thing for you, I don’t know, but it meant that I flicked through some pages quickly because I knew what was about to godown. We do, however, get an insight into Evan’s mind that we don’t fully get in the show (although I think that the show does an excellent job of showing Evan’s feelings through song), which I think is the highlight of the book. However, Evan, at times, feels a little flat, with no hobbies or interests apart from trees. Emmich’s writing style sucks us into the mind of Evan though, through his moments of panic, anxiety and embarrassment, and this helps us to empathise a little with Evan, giving us the why behind his morally dubious actions.

The use of Connor’s suicide doesn’t sit well with me. I feel like it was used as a vehicle for other themes to be explored in the play, when it should have been given more space. However, Connor does have some mini-chapters from his point of view, which gives him more of a voice compared to the musical. As I mentioned earlier, being pulled into Evan’s head combined with the subject matter means that this book might not be for you, and it’s important to really bear that in mind.

If you’re looking for something in the Musical Theatre genre with a main character with a mental illness, may I suggest Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix? It has excellent reviews, and I think it’s very cleverly done.

Overall, this is a thoroughly immersive read that will particularly appeal to fans who have listened to the soundtrack but who have not watched the musical. If you’re looking for a book that tackles the stigma of mental illness and promotes discussion surrounding mental health, then this may not be the book for you. Nevertheless, the writing style allows the reader to see inside the mind of the protagonist.

Star Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Learn more about my affiliate links here.

With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – Book Review

Aspiring chef Emoni has a lot on her plate – work, looking after her young daughter, and school. Juggling all of this is tough, but when she is in the kitchen, her mind is transported somewhere else as she unleashes her creativity on dishes drawn from her Puerto Rican roots, following her gut to make mouth-watering food full of flavour. When the opportunity to take a Culinary Arts class in school arises, Emoni can’t wait to get involved and see if she has what it takes to take her passion professional, but life seems to keep getting in the way of her dreams. She’s going to have turn her fire on high if she’s going to do her talent justice and show everyone what she can really do, regardless of the obstacles that the world throws at her.

Continue reading

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Book Review

Charlie is used to being on the periphery of the social lives of his cohort, observing, without fully engaging, all of the drama, parties and relationships that come with the teenage experience. The move from Middle School to High School offers an opportunity for change for Charlie, making friends with some older students who show him what it is like to “participate” – going to parties, meeting new people, and living life to the full. It’s not plain sailing though – hidden to the outside world, Charlie struggles with family relationships, and the all-encompassing guilt he feels over the death of a close relative. Conscious to shake off his wallflower moniker, Charlie tries to live in the moment and change his perspective on life.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – Book Review

In John Green’s latest novel, Aza is faced with a dilemma when the billionaire father of a childhood friend becomes a fugitive. When her best friend Daisy hears about the $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, the pair begin to look into anything that may lead them to his whereabouts. However, through the investigation, Aza becomes much closer to the fugitive’s son and childhood friend, Davis Pickett. Being a supportive friend to Daisy, a good student and investigating the case is a lot, but Aza must also learn how to cope with thought-spirals and intrusive thoughts caused by her anxiety and OCD. 

Continue reading

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Book Review

simon .jpg

After meeting online, Simon Spier has been in contact with the elusive Blue over email, sharing their experiences of coming out with one another. It’s not long before the pair are really close, sharing secrets that they wouldn’t even tell their best friends. What’s more, not only do Blue and Simon go to the same school, but they are in the same year – as Simon begins to fall for Blue, he wants to know Blue’s real identity…

Continue reading

Release by Patrick Ness – book review


Release is one day in the life of seventeen-year-old Adam, a gay teen with a homophobic preacher father from Washington. It’s a big day for him, with heartbreak, love, secrets being told, relationships breaking down; Adam will learn a lot from today…

Continue reading

Every Day by David Levithan – Book Review

EveryDay DL

Every day A wakes up in a new body. In order to make it through the day without the person suspecting that they are being possessed, A must access the person’s memory in order to learn their routine, personality, likes, dislikes, relationships and how they act towards others. For one day, A must live their life for them, making decisions in their best interests. It has always been like this for A – their surroundings and physical body changing daily. Then one day, A finds themself in Justin’s body, Rhiannon’s boyfriend. As he moves through the day, he grows closer and closer to Rhiannon – he has found someone he wants to be with every day, a constant when everything around him is changing.

Continue reading