Tuesday 6 August 2019

Dear Evan Hansen By Val Emmich Book Review

TW - Depression, Anxiety, Suicide, Grief. I finished this book almost a week ago now and I've found myself thinking about it every single day since. I've read some really great books this year so far, you can find out which ones I've rated and which ones have left me a little disappointed in my roundup posts - 1 & 2, but I can definitely see Dear Evan Hansen being in the top 5 of 2019, if not at the very top. Extremely long, all over the place review coming up.
Dear Evan Hansen cover on my Kindle, held up in front of bookcase
'When a letter that was never meant to be seen draws high school senior Evan Hansen into the Murphy 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. And Connor's wealthy parents 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 family, he knows what he's doing may not 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. He's confident. He's a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. But when everything is in danger of unravelling, he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.'

My review

If you didn't already know, because not everyone is as theatre mad as me, Dear Evan Hansen is a Tony Award winning musical which opened on Broadway in 2016 and is actually opening in the West End in November. It centres around Evan who has social anxiety and has always been a bit of an outcast at school. A sudden tragedy involving classmate Connor Murphy allows for Evan to finally be part of something, to fill a space that Connor has left, and to create a new life for himself. Unfortunately after claiming to be Connor's best friend to comfort his family, the lies start to spiral and he finds himself in deeper than he ever thought possible.

I think the book resonated with me for a lot of reasons but the main one being I felt I could totally relate to Evan's struggles with anxiety. So many times throughout the book I just thought YES I'm like that too, and I know so many other people have had that same experience which makes you feel so much less alone. Sometimes anxiety can be something so many people just don't understand unless they have it themselves and one of Evan's big struggles is that he feels so incredibly different to everyone else because of it. At times I just wanted to cry because it felt so real. The writers of the musical and the novel, have got it spot on with how lonely and isolating anxiety can be.

Aswell as tackling anxiety, Dear Evan Hansen also deals with other hard hitting issues such as suicide and grief which I'm sure is a tricky subject to broach. I personally felt like it was written really well though and as we get to hear from Connor, aswell as Evan throughout, I didn't feel like the topic was being brushed over. It was important that we got to hear Connor's side too, find out why he was finding life so painful and then have the aftermath unfold to show what an impact it can have on everyone around.

I know the book sounds very doom and gloom, and to be honest at times it is a tough read, and probably too close to home for a lot of people, but there was something about it that really just got to me. I don't know if it's because I was already a fan of the musical so instantly felt like I was jumping into a story I knew and was prepared for, or if it was just how relatable it was at times, I just couldn't love it more if I tried. Whilst I didn't always agree with Evan's actions, I couldn't help but like his character, aswell as most of the people throughout, despite how complex they could be. There was so much depth to each person, far more than you could ever get from just listening to the cast recording. I've actually listened to it countless times since finishing the book and now I understand the story much better, and it's added an even deeper meaning to it.

To say this was a musical first and the novel has been written afterwards, something I've never known to have been done before, Val Emmich has captured the story perfectly. The music and lyrics have been subtly added into the dialogue so if you have listened to the cast recording before, several bits will stand out as you read through, and I like that this really sets you up to go in and watch the show next. I think if you saw that first, you may get a bit of a shock and struggle to connect with the story so it's definitely worth reading the book beforehand.

I'm almost certain I haven't done this book justice with my review, but I really do think it's such a powerful story that lots of people will be able to relate to. As sad as it is, people are struggling more than ever with depression and anxiety, and whilst we all know how important it is to talk and get help, it's not always as simple as that, but this book was a comfort to me. It's beautiful, it's heart-wrenching at times, and actually surprisingly funnier than I would have ever expected. It's raw and it's real and whilst it might not be the happiest story you've ever read, it makes you feel like you're not on your own and shows that there are others going through the same difficulties as you. I can see myself re-reading this time and time again for that reason alone. I think that's part of the reason the musical is so loved and will continue to be for a very long time.

'Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day, and here's why. because today, at least you're you, and that's enough.'

Have you heard of Dear Evan Hansen?

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Imogen's Typewriter. said...

It's so hard to write reviews for books that hit close to home! You did a great job, this is on my TBR now!
Imogen’s Typewriter. <3

Debbie said...

What a brilliant review, it's harder when they strike up feelings in yourself. If a book is open to be re read then it's a winner

jennyinneverland said...

I've heard about the musical and knew it was a book but I didn't really know what it was about. This sounds RIGHT up my street. I'm keen to read about a MC who has anxiety too. Great review!


Lady Writes said...

This sounds like the sort of read that's challenging at times but so worthwhile when you get to the end x

Sophie said...

This sounds like an incredible book. Interesting that it was a musical first. I imagine this one is hard to get through in parts but so worth it when you finish x


Tiffany Timms said...

Thank you! Sometimes I worry my reviews are just a bit of a mess as it's so hard to get all my feelings out coherently for books like this! xx

Tiffany Timms said...

Definitely, I already keep wanting to go back and read it again xx

Tiffany Timms said...

Thanks so much Jenny. I think you'd love it! xx

Tiffany Timms said...

It really is. Tough to read at times but just so real xx

Tiffany Timms said...

Yeah it's not a book for everyone as it is hard to read at times, but like you say, so worth it. I'm so glad I got it xx

Joy said...

I would love to read this book. I like books that go deep.

Ellen said...

I’ve heard mixed reviews about this book, but I really like the musical and I’ve wanted to read it for a while, so I think I’ll give it a go! Loved your review!

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