Anna’s Book Nook: Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul


Anna Keneally

Anna Keneally follows in Ben Platt’s footsteps, auditions for Dear Evan Hansen, but does not get the part.

Today is going to be an amazing day and here’s why: you get to be blessed with my book insight.

As a Broadway enthusiast, I read Dear Evan Hansen by the creators of the hit show with the same name, just to relive the in-theater experience. I ended up walking away with a more in-depth story than I originally expected. Even without Ben Platt belting out “Waving Through a Window,” this version of the story sings in its own way. This book does contain possibly triggering material including suicide, so please be advised before reading.

Evan Hansen is a high school senior struggling with depression, anxiety and the crippling feeling that he does not belong. Connor Murphy was also struggling with depression, which led him to take his own life. In a twist of fate, a letter brings the grieving Murphy family and Evan together. The beautiful thing about this book is that Evan messes up in pretty much the worst way possible early on in the book and things just keep getting worse. It is one thing to claim to be friends with a dead boy, but one who supposedly did not have any friends? That is a whole new ballgame and Evan’s small misstep snowball and gain velocity throughout the book. While it may not seem beautiful, it actually is because for once we do not have a main character whose flaws are glazed over. We finally get to see a realistic human.

There are few books, movies or TV shows that talk about living with mental health issues in an accessible, yet still realistic way, but Dear Evan Hansen is an exception. We are trapped in Evan’s brain for the greater portion of the book and get to understand his thought process via internal monologuing, unlike in the play where everything must be conveyed through body language and speech.

For people who do not struggle with anxiety, the constant state of worry that Evan faces may seem strange, but it is an amazing experience to see everything that is kept inside. The Broadway show is almost entirely from Evan’s perspective, with a few exceptions. But the audience still gets to see Connor Murphy reappear in a ghostly form as the manifestation of Evan’s fears and thoughts. In the book, we get to see who Connor actually was, not just Evan’s version. Connor speaks to us even after death as he sees first-hand the aftermath of his suicide. That is by far my favorite feature of the book: instead of just hearing from the living world, we get to see Connor’s side and are introduced to a much more dynamic character.

This book made a huge impression on me because every character from a different point of view is both right and wrong depending on what angle you look at them from. From one angle, Evan was tangled into something and just made the best out of a bad situation for himself and the grieving Murphy family, but from another angle, he is self-destructive and caused immense damage to himself and those around him.

Every messy lie in this book adds up to one beautiful truth that is different for each character. Obviously I am not going to tell you what said truths are, because where is the fun in that? Dear Evan Hansen is absolutely phenomenal when it comes to realistic writing, character development and plotline. Plus, keeping me entertained through a young adult novel is no small feat. I highly suggest this book to any Broadway enthusiast, breathing human and above all else, people who need to be found. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255