March 26, 2018
Dear Evan Hansen becomes a YA book, since books are very good at soaking up tears
by Peter Clark
Dear Evan Hansen is the musical theater phenomenon that researchers are using to test the capacity of human tear ducts. It’s about a depressed teenager who writes himself uplifting notes—“Dear Evan Hansen, Today is going to be a good day…”—and winds up having his automissives stolen by the school bully. Soon, Evan finds out that the bully’s committed suicide, and everyone suspects they were friends based on the letters.
While the drama of adolescence has faded into the too-distant past for most who can afford $100-plus tickets, teenagers around the world have taken to the story from the production’s soundtrack, bootlegs, and charismatic former leading man Ben Platt. The hashtag #youwillbefound, based on the hit song from the show, has spread among teens looking to discuss suicide, or support those contemplating it. It’s also inspired a sprawling fanfic community that spins out stories of the titular character and issues facing teens.
Perhaps that’s the reason the musical’s writers, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul, decided to find a way to turn the story into a YA book.
As Alexandra Alter writes at the New York Times, last summer they approached actor and author Val Emmich about adapting the show. Having published his debut novel, The Reminders, a few months before, Emmich was apparently apprehensive about taking on the project, but was compelled by how audiences have been reactng to the story.
Six months later, the manuscript of Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel had been completed.
For fans worrying that it’ll be a straight re-telling of the Broadway script, they intentionally included additional material that never made it to the final show.
The novel fills in scenes that are only alluded to in the musical, like Evan’s experience as an apprentice park ranger, and fleshes out peripheral characters. Mr. Pasek and Mr. Paul sent Mr. Emmich songs that never made it into the production, and Mr. Levenson sent him scenes that were excised from the script. He reworked the material into scenes and dialogue.
The book is available on October 9. #ImNotCryingYoureCrying starts trending across Twitter on October 10.
Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.