by Sara Conway ’21
Today is a good day, and here’s why…
Ever since premiering on Broadway in late 2016, Dear Evan Hansen has remained a phenomenon across the globe, winning six Tony Awards in 2017, including Best Musical.
Evan Hansen is a high school senior who struggles with severe social anxiety and becomes intimately connected to the death of a classmate named Connor, after Evan’s therapy letter is found on the student and assumed to be the boy’s suicide note. He lies about his relationship with the classmate, entangling himself in a web of half-truths and made up stories. Evan finally gets a chance to belong, but at what cost?
Creators Steven Levenson, the playwright, and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters, collaborated with writer, singer-songwriter, and actor Val Emmich to bring the novel to life.
Published by Poppy, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel is a standalone that seeks to bring the story of Evan Hansen to people who may be unable to see the show on Broadway.
In addition, the novel shares what had to be cut in the process of developing the musical. Levenson states in an interview with Publishers Weekly that the creators had “so much stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor” and “so many ideas about who these people were and where they had come from.”
Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel allows readers to understand the characters from the show on a deeper level, something that is lost in the musical. Readers see more of Connor, his personality, and his hurt as well as his side of the story. Also, since the novel is told from Evan’s perspective, the audience maintains a direct connection with his perspective and his thoughts. The musical, in contrast, attempts to show the sides of most of the characters through the different songs.
Familiar scenes are included in the novel that many readers will recognize, such as the “You Will Be Found” sequence. Others lead to a new level of understanding of the relationship between Evan and his father in Colorado, as his mother and father divorced when he was young.
As with the musical, the novel tackles topics that need to be out in the open and talked about such as bullying, mental illness, and suicide. Both contemplate the potentially devastating impact of not checking in on loved ones. There are many people who are hurting on a level that is deeper than one’s initial understanding.
The novel and the Broadway show take care to not conclude with a “happily ever after” ending. As Evan discovers, there are serious ramifications for lying even with good intentions. But there is good and hope that emerges from tragedy and pain as well, even if it is in ways that are unexpected.
Dear Evan Hansen, in short, is a story of hope, of knowing that you are not alone, and of realizing that you will be found.