“We never joke about bunnies, Bunny.”
Viking | 2019
Opening Hook: A writing exercise.
Main Character: Every nerdy introvert who wants to experience being a Mean Girl.
Plot Twisty-ness: Purely demented.
This book hopped onto my TBR (hopped, get it? …I’ll show myself out,) after Tav of @readswithdogs (#bookstagram) gave it a 5-star review over the summer. She called it Clueless meets Heathers and quite frankly, what millennial isn’t going to want to read that, like STAT? ASAP? OTHER ACRONYMS?
For the first quarter of the book, I was like, what is this actually???? It’s really weird and hard to classify its genre; where is it going and what is it doing, and I’m not sure what’s happening? SOMEONE HELP ME!?
I was growing concerned that Tav had betrayed our book friendship in such a deep way that we would never come back from that darkness, but I stuck with it and slowly, as you get into the heart of the story, it starts to make more sense (but also does not, purposefully.) And it turns out Tav didn’t lead me astray. So, we’re cool.
Yes, it’s fucking bizarre and weird and hard to categorize, but that’s the beauty and style of Bunny. It’s like taking literary acid. It’s meant to trip you out. And if you’re expecting that going into the reading experience, then you’ll probably enjoy it more than if you’re expecting this to be a jump-and-scare kind of horror novel.
Just sit back and let it happen. The more you freak out, the worse it’s going to be.
Taking place in a highly selective, and hilariously portrayed, MFA program at a New England university (called Warren, because that’s where rabbits live,) the setting of this world is perfectly vibrant in its satirical absurdity. It definitely has a Heathers/Mean Girls vibe to the structure of the female characters. That sinister and fake, but syrupy sweet energy that pulls you in, even though you’re objectively uncomfortable the whole time.
Samantha, a creative writing student in the MFA program, is completely put off by the preformative clique of four other female students in the course, who call themselves The Bunnies. Samantha’s morbid curiosity about the Bunnies is too much to ignore when they randomly invite her to something called a “smut salon” at one of their houses. Attending the mysterious gathering against friendly advice, Samantha slowly finds herself drawn further and further into the Bunnies.
Dare I call it, a fucking cult? Because that’s what it feels like. At least, Cult-Lite.
As the reader, you get a front-row seat to the mechanics of being brainwashed as it happens to Samantha. And honestly, cults are fascinating as hell to me. Like I could probably be a cult leader if I had even an ounce of charm and charisma, but I’m actually not really interested in most humans, so I suppose that’s why I’m not overseeing an orgy in a white robe and no bra. A girl can dream, though.
Before she knows it, Samantha is fully under the thrall of the Bunnies, her personality and style completely overtook. There’s lots of weird shit happening at smut salon meetings that include experiments on live rabbits, only eating miniature food and a big special project that the Bunnies describe as “a hybrid” and “so intertextual.”
I really just want to take a moment to applaud Mona Awad on her ability to create dialogue and prose that ring so true in my ears, while also exacerbating the satirical ideas behind the Bunnies and the MFA program.
“You want to fuck, not be fucked,” Victoria says.
“Samantha,” Eleanor intones, “is this making sense?”
I stare at them all through Kira’s pink heart-shaped glasses. This is how she must see the world all the time. I look at their dark pink faces, so suddenly grave. I should call the police. I should run to Mexico. “Totally.”
The Bunnies are the most bizarre antagonists I’ve read in a book since I can’t even tell you when. Bizarre, but beautiful.
They exist in a hyper-described state, one-part satire and one-part an exposure of what it can feel to be friends with fake people. They are showering Samantha with love one minute, snickering their passive-aggressive comments the next and tearing her apart when they feel like it. They are experts in manipulation and gaslighting; on taking a shy heart and smashing it down using insecurities and wishes of popularity, until it is no longer the unique intellect it was to start with.
It’s cringe-ingly reminiscent of growing up as a girl just trying to make friends and fit in.
It’s also eerily reminiscent of introverts who live in their own head, particularly for us writers. By the end of the book, you will have to look deeper to find out what was real and what was imagination. What was real and what was an MFA writing piece.
Deeply satirical, perfectly written and highly disturbing, this is a work of literary horror that is so audacious, it is quite honestly, unforgettable.
And it doesn’t hurt that the author is Canadian.
Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny,” and seem to move and speak as one.
But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies’ fabled “Smut Salon,” and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door–ditching her only friend, Ava, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies’ sinister yet saccharine world, beginning to take part in the ritualistic off-campus “Workshop” where they conjure their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur. Soon, her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies will be brought into deadly collision.
The spellbinding new novel from one of our most fearless chroniclers of the female experience, Bunny is a down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, friendship and desire, and the fantastic and terrible power of the imagination.