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Literature / Dear Evan Hansen

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I have to prove why today is going to be an amazing day when all the evidence suggests otherwise. Every day that came before today was definitely not amazing, so why would I think today would be any different?

Dear Evan Hansen is a novel written by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul. It is based on the 2016 musical of the same name.

Just like its predecessor, Dear Evan Hansen focuses on Evan Hansen, a high school senior who struggles with social anxiety. After the suicide of classmate Connor Murphy, a misunderstanding leads Evan to fabricate an imaginary friendship with Connor in an attempt to comfort his grieving family. The lie quickly spirals out of control; however, and Evan, who has suddenly been thrown into the spotlight and is given everything he ever wanted, has to grapple with a moral dilemma — if a horrible lie is helping people, is it really so bad?

This wiki will only list tropes that apply to the novelization and not the musical. For the original work, see Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Unsurprisingly, the novel expands upon the story of the musical, giving more detailed backstories to existing characters and adding a few new ones. The addition of Connor's narration, especially, gives an originally mysterious character a chance to tell his side of the story; as well as giving him an Unfinished Business character arc.
    • We also get a bit more on Evan’s dad. It’s his brushing off of something Evan was proud of (fixing the sign at the park he was working at) in favor of informing Evan about his little half-brother on the way is that serves as the catalyst for Evan’s suicide attempt.
    • While the original musical only elaborated on Zoe's fate at the end of the play, Alana and Jared finally get proper endings in this version.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Connor states that he considers himself "fluid," being attracted to both girls and guys.
  • Broken Pedestal: Connor's idyllic vision of Miguel is shattered when he seemingly ignores an earnest text message that he views as his last-ditch attempt to find help. It turns out Miguel was too busy at work to respond. Connor never gets a chance to learn this.
  • Canon Foreigner: The novel introduces Miguel, Connor’s real friend and someone he’s heavily implied to have had a sexual relationship with.
  • Casting Gag: The audiobook version of the novel combines three actors who never actually appeared together onstage to portray their characters in narration. Ben Levi Ross from the touring cast narrates Evan's chapters, Mike Faist from the original Broadway cast narrates Connor's chapters, and Mallory Bechtel, who joined the Broadway cast in 2018, provides Zoe's singing voice for the songs "Requiem" and "Only Us".
  • Driven to Suicide: Unlike the musical, the novel explains why Evan tried to kill himself: he sent a photo to his dad of the fixed park sign; hoping that he would be proud of him — only to receive a picture of his wife's latest ultrasound instead. Because his dad simply didn't care about something that Evan was so incredibly proud of, he couldn't fight the idea anymore.
  • Embarrassing Initials: Mark Evan Hansen. Not so good when you want to be recognized by other people, huh?
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Considering that no one can see Connor, he listens in on a lot of conversations that he was never intended to hear. He's able to piece together who Heidi is when she calls Evan to check in on him, overhears his family talking about him, and watches as Zoe sits alone in her bedroom, writing "Requiem."
  • Foreshadowing: Throughout the book, Evan has suicidal thoughts, such as wanting to throw himself out of a moving car due to his anxiety of being with Zoe as she drives. He even has self-harm tendencies, like repeatedly punching a stiff baseball glove until his hand is red. This is because he failed to kill himself by jumping off a tree at Ellison Park, and yearns for death to escape his social anxiety.
  • Grief Song: Defied by Zoe with "Requiem." In-universe, she writes the song shortly after Connor's death. She doesn't realize that Connor is watching as she's writing it, and that's the moment his Jerkass Realization comes into play.
  • Hidden Depths: In the musical, Connor’s a bit of a mystery to both the characters and the audience, but the novel provides a little insight to his character. The novel shows that he’s well-read, observant, intelligent, and an artist.
  • Hispanic Maid: Miguel jokes about this, saying he's pretty sure he's the first Mexican in Connor's house who wasn't paid to be there.
  • Hollywood Hacking: The novel goes into more detail about the routine Jared goes through in order to fake Connor's emails, although it isn't portrayed any more accurately than it is in the musical. It's implied that his insisting they drive to a gym to use the public wi-fi there to avoid IP address tracking (which isn't necessary if they just created an account for Connor on GMail or a similar Internet mail service) or that Evan can't just learn to do it from Jared because he doesn't know about details like "accounting for time zone differences" is actually just Jared pulling a Bavarian Fire Drill to make Evan think he needs him and stay involved in Evan's affairs.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: There's no external evidence that the real Connor's ghost is real, except Evan thinking he sees Connor outside his window the night after Connor steals the letter (before he knows he's dead), and whatever actually happens in the moment When Connor shouts at Evan not to commit suicide and Evan spontaneously regains the will to live.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I made my exit" — The first time Connor says it, he's talking about when he committed suicide. The last time? when he's finally able to move on to the afterlife.
  • Middle Name Basis: Evan, who considers his first name little more than a technicality. He and his mother have never used it, and his father's departure only cemented it as a part of him he wants nothing to do with.
  • Musical World Hypotheses: Zoe's songs from the musical — "Requiem" and "Only Us" — actually exist as music within the world of the novelization, as songs Zoe composes and sings on the guitar.
  • Not Too Dead to Save the Day: Or rather, save one person—Connor's ghost saves Evan's life when he's about to commit suicide late in the novel.
  • Real After All: From the POV of fans of the musical — the effect of giving us Connor's backstory is to let us know that most of the things Evan lied about were true; they just didn't apply to him (Connor really did have a secret fast friendship with Miguel). It also canonizes the jokes Jared made about how Evan's story would only be realistic if they were more than just friends.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Connor suggests that Evan should tell people he broke his arm "battling a racist dude," citing To Kill a Mockingbird as inspiration.
    • The book goes into more detail than the musical about the "books Connor liked", name-dropping titles like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Slaughterhouse-Five.
    • In the book, Evan's inspiration for starting The Connor Project is the documentary Finding Vivian Maier, about a young filmmaker's quest to make sure the titular photographer's work isn't forgotten after her death.
  • Switching P.O.V.: A few chapters are narrated from Connor's perspective as a ghost.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Most of the audiobook is narrated by Evan (Ben Levi Ross) and Connor (Mike Faist), and we only hear any of the other characters in the form of Evan and Connor quoting them... until we hear actually hear Zoe's real singing voice (Mallory Bechtel) in the songs "Requiem" and "Only Us", both of which are a Wham Line moment.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: It takes Connor a little bit to realize that he's dead. Afterwards he follows Evan and his family around for much of the book. Though unlike his Spirit Advisor self in the original musical, Connor only is shown talking directly to Evan when he saves Evan from committing suicide after the lie is revealed.
  • Unfinished Business: Implied with Connor. He hangs around during the events of the novel and over time realizes how terrible his life was. Only when Connor acknowledges his mistakes and saves Evan from committing suicide can he move on to the afterlife.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Possibly. Connor’s surprised to hear Zoe’s claims about him screaming that he’d kill her. However, it’s not discussed whether or not Connor's narration is downplaying his actions or if Zoe was just that afraid of him.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: While the musical leaves the location ambiguous, the novelization appears to canonize that the story takes place in western New York State, near the real-life Ellison State Park just outside Rochester. (Evan tells Zoe the real-life origin story of the park, and mentions that he lives on the East Coast and that his dad is 1800 miles away in Colorado.)

The me I am is not the me that I was.