DON’T PANIC: a Review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Genre:
Science Fiction
Publisher: (Multiple)
Publication date: October 12th, 1979
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 240

Series: #1 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Blurb:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

 

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“Don’t Panic”

I don’t think I could pass off as a respectable scifi fan until I read one of the greatest scifi books of all time. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is Douglas Adams’ most famous work of writing spanning over 5 books in the series.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is pretty short, and with just 240 pages, it’s perfect for a quick vacation/summer read. I enjoyed every page of the book. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is filled with cringe-worthy dry British humour and endless scifi tidbits about space travel, which adds to the appeal.

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

 

As you read more of Arthur Dent’s voyage through the galaxy with his non-human friend, Ford Prefect with the famous book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ll find yourself laughing at their encounters with the terrible Vogans, the deceptive two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox, and mice in space.

The plot in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is very well-written. Right off the first page, Earth is on its way to being blown to bits and we find Arthur in the midst of a very important task of protecting his house from being demolished…which eventually becomes beside the point. You can literally expect something new happening with each turn of the page. And no doubt you will enjoy the amazing cast of characters sprinkled throughout the book. Every character with its eccentric personalities, even the pet mice, brings something distinguishable to the book.

I would highly recommend The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to anyone who wants to give scifi a try and wouldn’t know which book to start first. It’s short enough to give you a sense of feel of what great classic scifi is and its action packed enough to keep you entertained throughout the book.

And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a snippet of the book that will hopefully change your mind:

“A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Self Love is The Biggest Commitment You’ll Ever Make: a Review of Heart Talk by Cleo Wade

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Genre:
Self-Help, Poetry
Publisher: Atria
Publication date: March 6th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 224

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Blurb:

A beautifully illustrated book from Cleo Wade—the artist, poet, and speaker who has been called “the Millennial Oprah” by New York Magazine—that offers creative inspiration and life lessons through poetry, mantras, and affirmations, perfect for fans of the bestseller Milk & Honey.

True to her hugely popular Instagram account, Cleo Wade brings her moving life lessons to Heart Talk, an inspiring, accessible, and spiritual book of wisdom for the new generation. Featuring over one hundred and twenty of Cleo’s original poems, mantras, and affirmations, including fan favorites and never before seen ones, this book is a daily pep talk to keep you feeling empowered and motivated.

With relatable, practical, and digestible advice, including “Hearts break. That’s how the magic gets in,” and “Baby, you are the strongest flower that ever grew, remember that when the weather changes,” this is a portable, replenishing pause for your daily life.

Keep Heart Talk by your bedside table or in your bag for an empowering boost of spiritual adrenaline that can help you discover and unlock what is blocking you from thriving emotionally and spiritually.

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Here’s a confession: I don’t know how to review this insanely beautiful book.

I bought Heart Talk because I’ve heard of how uplifting and positively beautiful this book is.

AND I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE.

Never have I ever read a book so positively brilliant like Heart Talk that makes you love yourself more. CLEO WADE is a brilliant writer and everything she writes resonates within me. Reading Heart Talk was an ethereal reminder of all the things I’ve come to know and appreciate in relation to self-love.

And I love how reading this book was such a personally enlightening experience.

“The best thing about your life is that it is constantly in a state of design”

I found Heart Talk truly relatable as I’ve been on this journey of self-love and “self-repair” for the past three years. Not many people know this but I had a very rough start to my 20’s. College was a nerve-wrecking experience for an introverted, awkward people-pleaser like me who constantly experienced depression and social anxiety when thrown into large groups. I don’t think I can ever articulate well the pain of loneliness I went through in my early 20’s and the destructive consequences I had to bear because of it. When I had the courage to finally leave the negative environment/friendships and the relationships that were wrongly-suited for me, I found myself completely on my own for the first time in my 20’s with the exception of 1-2 friends that gratefully stayed around. Fresh out of college and with the excitement of starting a new career on the horizon, a figuratively blank canvas was spread out ahead of me to start life over.

And I had the chance to ask myself:

“What can I do now that I’m not pulled back by someone else or by a love that didn’t allow me to grow as a person? What can I do to be truly happy and a good human being now that I get a second chance to start over?”

3 years ago, I was intimidated and scared for the future, but I knew an opportunity when I saw one. When you decide that you’re gonna be okay on your own and that the stereotypical life script society desperately wants you to follow is not the story you want for yourself, you start being happy with your life and the choices you make. You stop defending yourself to other people when you do something out of the norm. You stop feeling resentful to yourself and other people when your life isn’t going the same way as others. You start questioning the type of life, partner and career you want. And you become wiser in choosing friendships that help you grow instead of break you down. You also stop looking for love in the wrong places, and focus on being a good human being in general. Because love will come when it’s ready to influence and grow us.

And in return to all the self-love you grant yourself, you develop this sense of courage and strength you never knew you had.

“The way you love yourself sets the example for how everyone else will love you”

Heart Talk is very real, in my opinion. I wouldn’t say it changed my life, but Heart Talk reaffirmed every single thing I’ve learned about self-care in the past 3 years. It is the book you want whenever you need a small reminder that you’re deserving of love. Heart Talk reminds you of all the reasons why you are amazing, worthwhile and validated for every emotion you have ever felt.

I highly recommend Heart Talk to anyone looking for motivation to love yourself and realise your full potential to be the happiest in life that you can be. It might sound cheesy, but you are the biggest commitment you will ever have in your life. Why not treat it with more respect?

Perfect for readers looking for endless inspiration to improve your outlook on loving yourself and being a better person in general, Heart Talk is full of wisdom and love for just that.

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A Tale of Growing Up and Remorse: a Review of Ponti by Sharlene Teo

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Genre:
General Fiction
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: April 19th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 304

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Blurb:

2003, Singapore. Friendless and fatherless, sixteen-year-old Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress and now a hack medium performing séances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, an unlikely encounter develops into an intense friendship and offers Szu a means of escape from her mother’s alarming solitariness.

Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series ‘Ponti’, the very project that defined Amisa’s short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that threatens her conscience.

Told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti is about friendship and memory, about the things we do when we’re on the cusp of adulthood that haunt us years later. Beautifully written by debut author Sharlene Teo, and enormously atmospheric, Ponti marks the launch of an exciting new literary voice in the vein of Zadie Smith.

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When I first heard of SHARLENE TEO, a Singaporean-born author, releasing her debut general fiction Ponti, I was very intrigued. It’s amazing how more South East Asian authors are given the attention to shine in the publishing industry today.

Right off the bat Ponti is very nostalgic for me, being of South East Asian descent as well. I love Sharlene’s writing from the very beginning. She writes in this very familiar manner and of the wonderful things about being a South East Asian that pulls you into the book.

Her descriptions of Singapore in the late 80’s all the way to 2020 are very apt and appealing. I was constantly reminded of how much I loathed my secondary school in that nostalgic way that was described from Szu’s point of view. Everything else mentioned in this book – from the multiracial food and diverse languages and accents used – are reasons why we need more diverse reads like this.

Ponti gives a colourful representation to how a Singaporean/Malaysian teenager feels on a daily basis. You feel the loneliness among the chaotic hustle of living in a busy city like Singapore. And on top of that, I love all the pontianak references and stories, which are very well-known among Malays. I got chills at some parts of the book where paranormal events were explained. But I wished Sharlene had written more on the paranormal aspects since I cannot think of any other internationally-published book who would tell the tales bomohs, pontianak, orang minyak and such!

What I enjoyed the most in Ponti is the different narrations given by the three main female characters. We get to see Amisa in her youthful glory in the late 70’s, Szu as an awkward and struggling teenager in the early naughties, and Circe a newly divorcee in 2020. Each narrative brought different flavours into the book, giving us slices into what happened to each women at the end and how their lives heavily intertwined with each other. There weren’t much character development for each character, but each of their life struggles are something to appreciate. The way each women shaped their life based on major disappointments they’ve experienced would definitely appeal to the reader. The pain each person went through is very deeply felt, and what makes Ponti a worthwhile read.

Ponti‘s plot might be the only thing to disappoint you. But nothing else! Its lack of plot contributed to the slow-moving pace of this book, but with only 300 pages, Ponti won’t necessarily be a drag when you read it. While the book’s ending was pretty mysterious, I think it suited the entire vibe Ponti gave. It’s a book that makes you wonder what’s the real deal behind all three women and how it affected their lives. Although, I wish there was more depth to the story in all its entirety. I would have loved to know more of Amisa’s past and how Szu turned out in the future.

But overall, Ponti is a breath of fresh air in the book industry! I genuinely enjoyed reading Ponti and appreciating the similarities and cultures of South East Asian countries that I grew up with being reflected in this book. And I hope you enjoy it too!

Perfect for readers looking for diverse reads by writers of colour (WoC), Ponti is a great introduction to the busy Singaporean life and how three women learned to live with the consequences of the actions made by the other.

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

Green Gloobies and Wumpires: a Review of Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

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Genre:
Childrens, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: June 5th, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 160

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Blurb:

 You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.
Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

The award-laden, bestselling Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book and Coraline, brings his biggest ever publishing year to a spectacular conclusion with this gloriously entertaining novel about time-travel, dinosaurs, milk and dads.

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Fortunately, Neil Gaiman is a master of fantasy worlds bound to blow us away! I picked Fortunately, The Milk on a whim at a bookstore that was having a sale. The last book I read by GAIMAN was Neverwhere, which I loved. And Fortunately, The Milk did not disappoint me one bit.

“You have your milk,” he said. “Where there is milk, there is hope.”

Fortunately, The Milk is a perfect book for children and adults who want to experience Gaiman’s whimsical world in which humans and the non-humans reside together. The father, who looks uncannily like Gaiman himself, finds himself in a bit of a mess one morning after he goes out to get milk for his children’s breakfast. It’s a whirlwind of an adventure from then on with a good dash of dinosaurs, aliens, female pirates and space police!

The characters in Fortunately, The Milk are all so brilliantly written and Chris Riddell’s illustrations are gorgeous as always. My copy of Neverwhere was also illustrated by Riddell with equally amazing illustrations. You know you’re in for a wonderful time when these two men get together and produce something great.

Fortunately, The Milk is very short with only 160 pages and I wish there was more to it. But having a good short fantasy read rekindled my love for the genre and Gaiman’s writing. You’ll be blown away by the simplicity of the story and reminded of your childhood years where you spent hours reading about aliens, space adventures and time traveling mishaps!

A highly recommended read from me, in which I know this book will have you in for a great time.

Fortunately, The Milk is perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and those interested to dive shortly into his whimsical world. You’ll resurface wishing to read more of his works.

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Before Tortall’s Greatest Mage Came to Be: a Review of Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

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Genre:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 6th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 465

Series: The Numair Chronicles #1

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Blurb:

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

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Oh my Lord, how boring Tempests and Slaughter has been. And I read all FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY FIVE pages just to make sure the entire book was terrible. Because you deserve an honest opinion, and here’s mine:

Skip this book. Read her other series. Anything but Tempests and Slaughter.

Never have I been mortified that a renowned Fantasy writer could be capable of writing something so dull and slow-paced with no action to the plot whatsoever and with very little character development. Apparently TAMORA PIERCE is famous for writing children fantasy. But her efforts in creating a series set years before the main character of her series makes a name for himself are met with extreme disappointment.

I’ve never read anything by PIERCE before. And so I am of the audience for this particular sentence in the blurb:

“Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.”

Tempests and Slaughter is anything but unforgettable.

It is dull and surprisingly slow-paced for a YA Fantasy. Nothing about Arram and his two best friends, Ozorne & Varice, are memorable or even unique asides from the fact that they are the youngest mages in their university of magic.

The writing was nothing spectacular and the plot was pretty non-existent. Needless to say, I spent two weeks reading about a young mage who was told over and over how special his Gift is and how smart he is. When in reality, all Arram did was attend classes, befriended a Crocodile God and took care of a peculiar bird. Just when I thought something exciting was going to happen, the situation diffused very quickly and all was well.

PIERCE played it safe with Tempests and Slaughter. She might have hoped her reputation and ratings would make this book a bestseller. But honestly, the way the entire book was arranged did the exact opposite for me.

Maybe this book could be perceived differently for an avid fan of her previous series where the characters might bring fond memories to the reader. But for a first-timer of her works, Tempests and Slaughter was not my cup of tea. If you’re a first timer of her books, I’d suggest you start with her other more well-known series that The Numair Chronicles.

And I hope if you do decide to pick up the book in the future, you’ll enjoy it more than I did!

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Thank you Times Reads for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

Finding Love in the Harsh Montreal Winters: a Review of The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

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Genre:
Historical Fiction
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication date: February 7th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 389

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Blurb:

With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.

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“No one else could understand what they were saying to each other,
Every word they spoke was a metaphor”

Right off the bat, I’d say The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a complex read not written for everyone. Despite the blurb indicating innocence and a pure love story, The Lonely Hearts Hotel reveals its multiple layers of complexity within its plot and characters leaving us to wonder what the heck is going on in this book.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel started out great for me, gripping me to the story pretty quickly given how HEATHER O’NEILL was indiscreet on teenage rape-induced pregnancies and the sombre situations orphanages find themselves in at the turn of Canada’s 20th century. We’re quickly introduced to two unique orphans with amazing talents in performing arts who happen to be Pierrot and Rose.

The hardships they faced while in the orphanage was insightful enough for me, if it wasn’t for the explicit content surrounding sexual harassment and sexual pleasures in general. The Lonely Hearts Hotel literally borderlined on Erotica with the sexually explicit scenes. And whilst I have nothing against the genre Erotica, I’d have appreciated an initial warning that a lot of sexual content was going to cover the first 40% of the book. That said, this book is certainly for adults and very mature young adults.

The plot itself is pretty good. I love how we got to know more of 1930’s Montreal, Canada. Rarely are historical fiction reads set in this time and place. The Great Depression was used as a setting for what was about to unfold in the two orphan’s lives. The Lonely Hearts Hotel consists of an amazing cinematic prose that makes you feel like you’re watching an obscure movie in your head, but the stiff dialogues was a bit of a turn-off for me.

We also get to read more about Pierrot and Rose’s characteristics and what drives them to be the characters they turned out to be. We see Pierrot’s decline into drugs after leaving the orphanage despite having an immense talent for the piano, and Rose’s attempt in building a life for herself after all her hardships.

O’NEILL writes female characters so well. This is one of my favourite things about The Lonely Hearts Hotel. Throughout the book, it’s pretty adamant how smart Rose in wanting something more out of her life. Her sex as a woman led her to face discrimination every day, and how relevant can we say this statement still is in today’s society? Rose’s character development was truly phenomenal in The Lonely Hearts Hotel and I’m glad that was very well written.

“Being a woman was a trap. Something would bring you down before you turned twenty-three. The only time the world shows you any favor, or cuts you any slack, is during that very brief period of courtship where the world is trying to fuck you for the first time.” 

I’d be lying if I said Pierrot and Rose’s love story did not move me. It did, in all its honesty and raw form. The relationship exhibited by them was unique in an era where men only believed women to be good for one thing only. Reading about Pierrot and Rose’s relationship growing and changing throughout the book was a pleasure, but nevertheless a heartbreaking process. The ending was something I never expected to move me, but it did. And for that, I believe The Lonely Hearts Hotel is worth a read.

“[They] would never grow old enough to understand that you only go from one hardship to another. And that the best we can hope from life is that it is a wonderful depression”

Set in a chilling but breathtaking Montreal setting, THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL will bring you on a journey of finding love in a desperate time of hardships and desperation, in an attempt to save yourself.

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Thank you Times Reads for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

#YouWillBeFound: A Review of Dear Evan Hansen Screenplay

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Genre:
Screenplay
Publisher: Theatre Communications Group (TCG)
Publication date: May 30th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 165

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Blurb:

An original musical that explores the poignant desire for human connection in the tumultuous life of one young man. Evan is shy, lonely, and bullied for it―teeming with the irrepressible emotions all too familiar with anyone who’s ever been a teenager. After a tragedy strikes, Evan’s life suddenly gets turned around, but is it ultimately for the better?

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It is of no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Dear Evan Hansen. I lived and breathed this beautiful musical for a good 6 months after it won Best Musical at the 2017 Tony Awards. I fell in love with Ben Platt shortly after and knew that Dear Evan Hansen will forever change my life, as it has done for so many others.

Dear Evan Hansen is the tale of how a small lie gets spun out of control and changes the lives of everyone in it. It is ultimately a story of loneliness, finding a place in this world, and helping others through the dark times. It also questions the power of social media in spreading “fake news” and how authenticity is very difficult to achieve with so many online platforms. I truly believe everyone who listens and learn  about Dear Evan Hansen will find a reason to love it.

“What if everyone knew?
Would they like what they saw?”

Stumbling across this screenplay in Kinokuniya was a sign that I needed to devour the musical all over again, but this time via a reading experience complete with the cast album recording. Dear Evan Hansen screenplay basically allows us to read the dialogues along with the song lyrics. There are brief descriptions on the characters’ emotions and backdrop settings, which I found super helpful in imagining the entire musical. Having had an obsessive phase with Dear Evan Hansen meant it was very easy for me to imagine the original cast as the characters in Dear Evan Hansen. And in addition to that, I’ve watched a recording of Act 1 on Youtube, helping me to appreciate the screenplay further.

I would recommend Dear Evan Hansen to all Fansens who have had the pleasure of listening and being moved by the songs. It was truly a magical experience to read the musical and have the entire cast accompany you with Dear Evan Hansen‘s amazing original songs. You will love the emotions infused within this serious but full of comedic moments of a musical. The ending is a tear-jerker which moved my heart, and made me want to hug every single person out there who ever felt like they weren’t good enough or felt alone.

Reading the screenplay made me appreciate the musical even more so since it’s an original production. Most musicals are adaptations off books, movies or TV series. But Dear Evan Hansen is truly one of a kind. And it will stay with you, for forever…

“Even when it feels . . . hopeless. Like everything is telling him to let go. This time, maybe this time, he won’t let go. He’ll just . . . hold on and he’ll keep going. He’ll keep going until he sees the sun.” 

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