Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich with Justin Paul, Steven Levenson, and Benj Pasek

Published: 9th October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Penguin
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

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?

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 was excited about this book for a number of reasons: the first being that I could have a sticky beak at the musical before I saw it in person, second, it gives me hope that maybe more musicals could become books so for those of us who can’t always see these wonderful Broadway shows can still experience them if they’re going to refuse to release a copy on DVD or bring it to my country.

By the time this is posted I would have seen the musical on Broadway (!!) so aside from seeing this story play out, I am hoping to match up the song lyrics with the correct tune compared to what I tried to conjure in my head (I know I could listen to the soundtrack, but I’m going to go in blind music wise). Even without seeing the actual musical this book gives a vivid and detailed story to enjoy. Much like The Cursed Child play the dialogue is there so are the stage directions and lyrics so you can see how it would play out on stage.

In terms of the actual story, it is a case of one small lie becoming something big and uncontrollable. I experienced some anxiety reading this because you know what Evan does is wrong, and just waiting for it to fall around his feet is stressful, but looking past that the story is a bit heartbreaking and is about looking for a place to belong and discovering who you are. If I thought about it too much I hated Evan a little, but I suppose you’re meant to see it from his point of view, and I did, but I still couldn’t believe the things he does in this.

I’ve heard the music for this is amazing and reading the lyrics I can see how that’s the case. There is a lot of emotion and dealing with a lot of sensitive and personal things. There is a suicide and drug use but both are referenced and not shown.

If you are unlikely to get a chance to see this musical I highly recommend this book as a chance to experience the story. Maybe you could even pay the soundtrack alongside when the songs come up to almost get the full experience.

You can purchase Dear Evan Hansen via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Angus and Robinson | Dymocks

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

 

The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak

Published: 4th September 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Dial Books
Pages: 48
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A book with no pictures? 

What could be fun about that?

After all, if a book has no pictures, there’s nothing to look at but the words on the page. 

Words that might make you say silly sounds… In ridiculous voices…

Hey, what kind of book is this, anyway?

I remember reading this book when it first came out and it was revered. I am glad to see it still holds up. It is so clever and it makes reading a fun experience. What I love about this is it highlights the power of formatting and the power the author has when you read. Italicised words are read differently, whether you read it aloud or in your head. Bolded words get an emphasis, big words in bright colours get read out differently and this book is fun to read because of the words and gets enhanced by the formatting.

Having no pictures bring the story focus on the reading experience and especially on the person reading it since the story revels in making them say silly things. It is about how fun words are and is a prime book to be read out to children, (though not unexciting to read in your head either).

You can purchase The Book With No Pictures via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

Fishpond | QBD

First Kiss by J Tomas

Published: 29th August 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 JMS Books LLC
Pages: 11
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Noah Lipinski has a fierce crush on Doug Hathaway, a hot jock on the high school football team whose locker is fifteen down from Noah’s in the hall. When Melissa Bradshaw, only the most popular girl in school, suddenly shows an interest in Noah, he suspects he’s being set up for a cruel joke. She asks him to Homecoming and he refuses to go.

After school, the doorbell rings and Noah’s sure she’s back to pester him about the dance. But when he opens the door, he finds Doug there instead, with an explanation and a much better offer than Melissa’s.

At 11 pages there is a lot of pressure to make a fully rounded story and Tomas almost hits the mark. For a short story is covers the key intrigue points but there wasn’t enough time to get a feel for the writing, or get settled into the story. It is an enjoyable snippet, but I wasn’t totally caught up in the story, Noah was a good character, and I could see the approach Tomas was aiming for, but there just needed a bit more to cement the narrative. Tomas brushes past the characters, enough for the reader to get a glimpse at who they’re meant to be, but nothing sticks beyond one dimension.

I’m not 100% sure more pages would help, there can be power in a short story, there needs refinement in the writing though to make the characters count in the space they have and bring across depth in the story.

You can purchase First Kiss via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

King & King by Linda de Haan

Published: 1st March 2003Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Tricycle Press
Illustrator: Stern Nijland
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Once there lived a lovelorn prince whose mother decreed that he must marry by the end of the summer. So began the search to find the prince’s perfect match and lo and behold……his name was Lee. You are cordially invited to join the merriest, most unexpected wedding of the year. KING & KING is a contemporary tale about finding true love and living happily ever after, sure to woo readers of any age.

The story is simple and to the point. I enjoyed how de Haan didn’t need to explain further about why the prince didn’t want a princess, he just didn’t. This was also something the queen accepted, she just needed the prince married so she count retire as planned. The prince meets with a variety of princesses from around the world which he has no interest in until one princess brings along her brother.

The illustrations aren’t the most pleasing to look at but they do the job. They are creative I will give credit for that and look like they have been compiled from cut out pictures, one page cleverly using what appears to be magazine snippets of a variety of words.

This isn’t a complex book explaining homosexuality to children, there is no long explanation about any of it. What it is though is a story which normalises it and explains that some princes like other princes and as long as he’s happy, everyone is happy.

You can purchase King & King via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

Fishpond | QBD

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Published: 18th June 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 William Morrow Books
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark. 

I read this when it first came out and I bought the beautiful hardcover that Gaiman signed and devoured it in one sitting. This is where Neil Gaiman shines: writing dark, mysterious stories that are like a new breed of fairytale and yet they are still so real as well. I loved this book, it was mysterious, dark, funny, obscure, strange, all these things in this one little book.

I loved the structure of the story too, it’s framed in a way that makes you think you’ll get answers, but you don’t, not really. Not that this takes away from the beautiful storytelling. You never find out who the funeral is for, thought I think either we’re either not supposed to know because it is either irrelevant or it is obvious. You can certainly find your own answers based on a few snippets here and there but nothing concrete. This open ending only adds to the mystical nature of the story and though answers would be nice, they are by no means necessary.

What I like about child protagonists is that so little phases them usually, but they do get scared and they get scared excellently. So while little George seems to accept the Hempstock family and all their strangeness quite well, monsters and mysterious women unsettle him, and the way Gaiman expresses this fear was wonderfully done. It is an odd thing to like in a book, child fear, but this book is so much about what it means to be a child and Gaiman captures it beautifully and with a touch of magic.

You get caught up in the story that you kind of forget it is bookended, it is only a memory, a very vivid memory, and it is rather wonderful how Gaiman has connected everything together. Nothing is completely solved, but you understand that things will be ok at the same time. It is quite strange and certainly not the kind of story that would be enjoyed by everyone, but I certainly thought it was excellent and I loved this peculiar journey Gaiman took me on.

You can purchase The Ocean at the End of the Lane via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository Audible

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

 Fishpond | QBD

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