Dear Evan Hansen: A comparison of the novel and musical


"249/365/3171 (February 15, 2017) - Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theater & The Great Comet at the Imperial (New York City) - February 15, 2017" by cseeman is licensed under

Dear Evan Hansen is a popular musical about Evan Hansen, a high school boy who can’t escape the feeling that he is alone, and he will never be found.

Alex Hannah

Trigger Warning: Contains talks of suicide, mental illness, etc.

Dear Evan Hansen is a popular musical about Evan Hansen, a high school boy who can’t escape the feeling that he is alone, and he will never be found. “Have you ever felt forgotten, in the middle of nowhere?” – You Will Be Found

For a therapy assignment, Evan must write a letter to himself about how the day is going to be an amazing day and why. The letter he ends up writing is filled with pain, and does not talk about an ‘amazing day’ except for the parts about Zoe Murphy, whom Evan has a crush on. While Evan is printing his letter, Connor Murphy, an anger-ridden ‘loser’ who struggles with substance abuse and known for throwing a printer at a teacher in second grade, finds the letter and takes offense at the part about his sister, Zoe, shoves it into his own pocket and storms off.

A few days later at school, Evan is called into the principal’s office, where he finds Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, tears in their eyes. Mrs. Murphy explains that Connor took his own life, and that he wrote his suicide note to Evan. They present it to him, and sure enough, it’s Evan’s letter.

Evan must lie to keep up this image that he and Connor were best friends when they weren’t, so that Evan can get closer to the Murphy family, including their daughter Zoe, who Evan has a crush on. He also becomes more liked and popular through this fake tragedy. The deeper and deeper he gets in this untrue reality, the harder and harder it becomes to tell the truth.

The novel is written by the same creators of the hit Broadway musical, and the feel of the show still is laced in the book. However, unlike the show, the book provides unique chapters from Connor’s perspective, which do him more justice than I feel the show did. In the musical, all we really know about Connor is that he was “messed up” and a loser, and nothing else. But in the book we get to see the many misunderstandings that led up to what happened, and the true side of Connor and his personality. This adds so much more depth to the story, and left me spellbound when I read it. 

We also see more of Evan’s personal anxiety and depression, and his emotional journey throughout the story. He becomes more of a loveable villain in the book, and his awful deeds start to just look like a young boy’s incessant fear of being alone. You can feel sympathy for what he did, when you realize he was struggling with his own mental health issues and that this lie was the best thing that ever happened to him. This is touched on in the original musical as well.

This book is beautifully written- characters that were already explained in the musical became even more realistic and understandable throughout the story. The dual perspectives of Evan and Connor added more depth to the plot, and I enjoyed that we finally got Connor’s side of the story. Though Evan is the main character, the whole show is based off of Connor’s suicide, making him a very pivotal character to explore.

Another character explored more is Jared Kleinman, Evan’s classmate, who helps Evan in making his lie come to life. Jared thinks that family friends aren’t important, and that his friendship with Evan isn’t real. Yet, he still helps Evan fabricate this lie.

I think this book is a beautiful tribute to the musical and to everyone who has felt alone at some point. It takes a unique, different side to the story and defends it well, yet never takes away from the majesty of the show. I highly recommend it to not just Dear Evan Hansen fans, but to everyone in general. And as Evan said in the musical and the book, “you’re not alone, none of us are.”