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

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (spoiler free) by Jack Thorne & John Tiffany, J.K. Rowling

Published: 31st July 2016 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little Brown UK
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover book of the script
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.

I had mixed feelings about reading this script. I was excited for a new Harry Potter story, but I was also unsure how it would be treated. After years of Rowling feeding us new information and revealing more of the story I was eager to see how the kids of the famous trio were getting on. How the original gang were all enjoying their adult lives and new jobs. I was, however, also worried that it would ruin the magic and the near perfection of the original series. I was worried that it would be a half hearted extension that didn’t have the same depth and feel and immense pleasure of reading. How wrong I was. Don’t get me wrong, there are things about this that make it not perfect, but I stayed with the five stars because while the faults are there, I did so incredibly enjoy it.

From the first page I was back in the Harry Potter world, I could picture it, feel it, it was like we’d never left. I fell hopelessly into the story and fell in love with characters new and old. My heart was overjoyed and breaking for so many reasons and I was barely ten pages in. For a script it felt so much like a story, I have no doubt the one actually used was a bit different again, and no doubt will be changed as the performances go on, but for now I like to imagine this is the one that will be seen on the stage.

A few stage directions are included, as a script would have, and it was fascinating to try and picture how this would be performed on stage, but when I wasn’t doing that I was picturing it in my mind as a novel, the back and forward of my imagination wasn’t an issue, and it was remarkable how a play script could be as evocative as a fully fledged novel that has scenery and more detail given to surroundings and character thoughts.

There are old names I would have loved to have seen included, but understandable this is the next generation’s story and you can’t include the old guard just for nostalgia purposes and to satisfy the long time fans. But those that are included are a joy to read about.

There are surprises, wonderful surprises, and less wonderful surprises, and I can already see opinions divided about the story, but as I say, I loved it, I devoured it. I loved every character for so many reasons, they have come across complex and full as any novel could make them, and it’s wonderful in a way to see the idiolised characters with faults and human mistakes of their own, even in the wonderful wizarding world.

Overall I think the writers did a wonderful job capturing the original Rowling style, and Thorne’s play reflects the amazing world Rowling spent so long creating. I was surprised, delighted, shocked, and concerned about so much in the story and it has certainly provided enough new material and controversial topics for lengthy debating to occur. Whether that is a good thing overall I’m not sure.

I hope your own Harry Potter experience has been spoiler free, and that you derived some enjoyment from the story if you were one of those who were not thrilled at the plot, or the fact it exists at all. Personally, I’m glad it is a play and not a new book, and I’m glad, that while I won’t get to see the play, I could experience it all the same. I could easily and happily see this as a fitting end to Harry’s life and story, but whether that is to be the case, we’ll have to wait and see.