Val Emmich, Author of Dear Evan Hansen, Visits SWHS

Brianna Skaff

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On Thursday, September 12, Val Emmich, the author of the praised novel Dear Evan Hansen, came to SWHS to talk about writing the novel and some deeper insights into his own life and the characters. Each grade of students had the opportunity to watch Ms. White interview Emmich in a ‘talk show’ esque.

Before seeing the interview however, some students read Dear Evan Hansen over the summer as a part of their summer reading criteria. Since the book is based on the musical, others have also been able to see the musical on Broadway, but the two adaptations have multiple differences. Freshman, Brayden Dill remarks on character Miguel, who was included in the book but not in the musical. Dill comments that the novel “was very good. I liked Miguel’s personality, he didn’t mind that Evan was lying the whole time, and I found that to be brave of him.” Another student, senior, Calya Burnham, discusses the book as a whole and her own favorite character. Alike with Dill, Burnham also believed that “it was a good book, it had a lot of interesting character developments, and the author conveyed different meanings behind high school life and mental illness. My favorite character was probably Evan because he has a lot of interesting components to his life and he had to experience a lot of things in order to overcome his issues.” Overall, multiple students found the novel to be interesting, and students were excited to see what Emmich had to offer.

The interview was conducted by Ms. White, and consisted of her asking Emmich questions based off his experience writing the book and what he believes about certain ideas / characters brought up throughout the novel. For those who were not able to attend the interview, Emmich ended on discussing why he believes people lie, a topic that is covered heavily throughout the novel since the plot is based on a lie. Emmich remarks “It’s less embarrassing, we all lie, I don’t know why it’s so hard sometimes to tell the truth sometimes about the silliest things. ‘Have you seen the Godfather?” ‘Yeah’ and you’re like why did I say that? I just didn’t want to sound stupid for not seeing Godfather. And then people are reciting the lines and you’re like ‘Yeah I know that.’ So, why do we do it? The problem is that I guess it’s important to know that the feeling of not being comfortable in ourselves, and Evan too, let one little lie build into a big big big lie. But the bigger the lie, then it becomes really really tough to get out of as we see in this book.” Emmich also discussed some issues that he has had to deal with in his past, that made him relate to the main character, Evan, and ultimately the decision to write the novel. Emmich tells the audience “coming out of the other end being someone who tries to be really truthful, who lied about how bad his household was or where his dad was during the day; ‘Oh no he works from home.’ “Well what does he do for a living?” ‘he works with computers’ or just not telling anyone anything that was going on. But now I guess i’m like ‘He’s a recovering alcoholic. He’s bipolar.’ I find myself to be greater and now it’s over with when I tell the truth and I hope that that’s something people read from here, when they read this book, that you feel like, it’s not like your secret is as weird as you think it is. I’m pretty sure as soon as I said that about having an alcoholic father, someone here has one, or someone here struggles with some stuff and it’s just the numbers show that. So now we go back to connecting with your fellow human.” 

After the interview concluded, students had differing opinions about how the interview went. Seniors, Will Lewis and Jamie Miller state their opinions below. Lewis, overall, was disappointed in the performance, saying “we didn’t get to ask any questions and it was just very stiff and unexciting. It didn’t really capture a lot of people’s attention or teach them anything new, we got to know a little bit more about the author but it was the third time that they did it [the interview] and it seemed like they were tired of repeating the same questions over and over.” On a more positive side, Miller remarks “It was unique to see an author’s perspective on their book, especially in an interview format. It was like something that you’d see online or on TV, seeing it in person was pretty cool. Hearing what he had to say about the writing experience was very interesting.” The consensus that can be drawn between the two boys is that they both thought that hearing about the Emmich himself was interesting, but it could have been performed in a more exciting manner to the teenagers. Overall, the student body was happy to have the opportunity to hear Emmich speak, and thank him for taking the time to visit SWHS.