Dear Evan Hansen

Val Emmich with Steven Levinson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Dear Evan Hansen

For the uninitiated, Dear Evan Hansen is probably the hottest musical playing on Broadway at the moment with the exception of the incomparable Hamilton.

To give something of a flavour by way of comparison, Evan Hansen is the kind of teen loner who inspires theatre shows such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Everybody's Talking about Jamie.

To whet the appetites of Londoners, who have recently been informed that the musical will be crossing to the West End but not for another year, this novel based on the show has just hit the bookshops under the Penguin imprint.

This is slightly unusual move. While we are all familiar with novels that turn into musicals and, for that matter, movies that receive the tribute of a novelised version, there are very few examples of this type. Even more so when publication occurs 12 months before the major sales tool arrives in town.

Perhaps the ideal scenario for potential fans is to download and listen to the cast recording at the same time as plunging into the story.

The product of an impecunious broken home, Evan's only solution to the horrors of real-life is to retreat so far from society that he goes around unnoticed, avoiding any serious interaction with friends, neighbours or anybody but his long-suffering mother, an overburdened nurse. In an attempt to help, his therapist recommends that the boy starts writing letters to himself, at least utilising his one talent.

The youngster's life transforms overnight when a schoolfellow, Connor Murphy, another misfit whose sister Evan secretly worships, commits suicide.

Unexpectedly, the world learns that Evan was Connor's only friend. His memories give great succour to the dead boy's family and simultaneously get our protagonist noticed.

The upshot is a series of increasingly ambivalent incidents, which will move and entertain readers, especially the target market, which seems to be teenagers in search of a rocky emotional ride that can be uplifting but also quite moving.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

Are you sure?