The creative ripples emanating from the 2016 Broadway musical hit Dear Evan Hansen continue to multiply. On March 17, 2020, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will release You Will Be Found, a 64-page gift book that pairs the lyrics of the musical’s song of the same title, written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with full-color art by Sarah J. Coleman. Farrin Jacobs, v-p and editorial director at LBYR, acquired North American rights from Creative Artists Agency; the book’s cover is revealed here for the first time.
In a twist on the entertainment industry paradigm of spinning books off into other media, the six-time Tony Award-winning Dear Evan Hansen, created by Pasek, Paul, and Steven Levenson, was expanded into Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich with Levenson, Pasek, and Paul. It was an innovative adaptation that paid off: released by Little, Brown in October 2018, the YA novel has sold close to 300,000 copies.
In the musical, the song “You Will Be Found” closes the first act, when Evan Hansen is remembering a painful, dark experience in his life and reimagining how things might have been different if he’d had someone to reach out to. “The initial song we wrote for this scene wasn’t delivering the emotion we needed it to deliver,” Paul recalled. “Benj and I decided it needed to be more optimistic and hopeful, and we rewrote it so that it became a song in which Evan opens himself up to the possibility of connecting with someone and feeling understood.”
In the world of the musical, Evan’s epiphanious song goes viral and, in a serendipitous manifestation of life mimicking art, the same thing happened in the real world. “It was pretty remarkable to see that a song that resonated in the show could create a similar moment of hope outside the show, and reverberate with so many people who heard it,” Pasek said. “Fans used the lyrics to reach out to others and remind them that they’re not alone. They recorded covers of the song, posted videos on YouTube, and started social media groups. They took ownership of the message and made the lyrics their own. It was pretty amazing to witness.”
The Song Finds a New Life
That overwhelming response led to the creation of You Will Be Found, a book project that was simultaneously contemplated, coincidentally, by the lyricists and Jacobs. “Benj and I spent some time talking about it, but we weren’t sure if anyone would really care about a book like this,” Paul recalled. But Jacobs was more confident. “I was happy to hear that Benj and Justin, unbeknownst to me, had similar thoughts about publishing their song’s lyrics in book format,” she said. “I told them I’d love to figure out how to make an inspirational YA gift book work in a way that would convey the passion and love that is behind their song.”
As it turned out, Coleman was instrumental in doing just that. The artist, who has created covers for and contributed hand lettering to earlier children’s books published by Little, Brown, was a natural choice for You Will Be Found. “Sarah’s art has just the right vibe,” Jacobs said. “It is both beautiful and sophisticated and conveys the great energy of “You Will Be Found,” and the song’s movement from loneliness and isolation to hope.”
Pasek and Paul were similarly impressed by Coleman’s appreciation for the song’s essence and message—and her ability to parlay that into her illustrations. “What we saw in her work was that she was willing to address the lyrics’ complexity and darkness, yet show something bright and optimistic,” Paul said. “We didn’t want the book to treat dark topics lightly, and Sarah’s art has a perfect blend of interpreting darkness in a way that is hopeful and beautiful. Her illustrations for this book are everything we had hoped for—and it seemed to come so naturally to her.”
The lyricists are gratified to see their work take on another new dimension in You Will Be Found. “We had such an incredible experience adapting Dear Evan Hansen into a novel, and it’s amazing to discover how various elements of the musical can translate into different formats,” Paul observed. “We saw this new book as an opportunity to make the song work, in an authentic way, through physical words and illustrations. We wrote this song for a specific character on a particular journey, and now it’s taken on a life of its own. So here we have recreated it in a tangible form for anyone who needs to hear, or share, its message.”
You Will Be Found by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, illus. by Sarah J. Coleman. Little, Brown, $15.99 Mar. 17, 2020 ISBN 978-0-316-53766-7