by @Bodysnatcher Bunny
Listen, Bunny, this book is doing a lot but like in a good way. It’s Heathers for the MFA crowd, but so much more. There are these girls who are so perfect you could just throw up and die, and get this, they call each other Bunny, Bunny. Talk about enmeshed. They simultaneously repulse and mystify the misfit Samantha who is totally in love with her own sadness—but is it healthy? I don’t know, Bunny, I’ve listened to literally dozens of RuPaul’s podcasts; this doesn’t look like self-love. Anyway, the clash of two worlds adeptly interrogates the ways in which women love and sabotage one another; furthermore, the looming specter of class differences gives Bunny a level of gravitas sometimes missing from the genre. Ultimately, Bunny is about the in-between, enacting Bhabha’s Third Space theory in prose. But that’s totally just me riffing, Bunny.
BEHIND THE PEN
Mona Awad is the author of three novels: All’s Well (Simon & Schuster, 2021); Bunny (Viking, 2019) and 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl (Penguin, 2016). 13 Ways won the Amazon Best First Novel Award, the Colorado Book Award and was a finalist for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize. Bunny, selected as a best novel of the year by Time, Vogue and the New York Public Library, won the Ladies of Horror Fiction Award for Best Novel and was a finalist for a New England Book Award and a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Horror. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, McSweeney’s, Time, Vice, and elsewhere.
A NO-SPOILER SUMMARY
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.
VOICES FROM WITHIN
Though many of our books spur discussion before the actual start date, none has done so to the extent of Bunny. Not since the Jam and Cheese Sandwich Incident after Helen Oyeyemi’s Icarus Girl has the server been so overtaken with fervor.
The book’s odd combination of heart, horror, and humor resonated with many of us. Several members of the server mentioned that Awad’s portrayal of loneliness was particularly well done. One said that “the exploration of outsider-ness she does is brilliant. As an outsider, every step of the journey has felt familiar. The undeserved hatred of those inside, the criticism and nitpicking of little things as proof that one should want to be an outsider…And at the same time, that longing to be a part of.” Another noted that “a lot of this taps into the ‘Why can’t we just talk like normal people?’ static that I have had my whole education. Having a foot in both worlds was/is exceptionally disorienting as an experience and I think Awad is writing the fuck out of that.”
The Bunnies themselves quickly became the center of the conversation, and most HOWLers agreed that Bunnies are evil, and yet deeply compelling and fun. One said they enjoyed “that the bunnies are not a high-school popular troupe, be the same or be out. Each Bunny is her own character, with their own styles and tastes, joined in bunniness but not molded by a hive mind,” and another said the Bunnies were “entertaining as characters. There’s something alluring about being part of a group like them, even if you know just how toxic and unhealthy it is.” A third agreed that “it’s hard not to enjoy them, even if they aren’t terribly likable.”
The send-up of the fine arts education system was expertly done. One HOWLer summed up that discussion beautifully, by saying “body… space… gesture… perform… I’ve spent a lot of time laughing at the pretentious nonsense in this book because it is 100% accurate.”
Mona Awad also paid the server a visit, talking about her writing process, the upcoming TV adaptation, and the reactions to the novel from her thesis cohort.
Favorite Scene: Prom
WELCOME TO THE BLURBS: HOWL SOCIETY MEMBERS’ REVIEWS IN THEIR OWN WORDS
- OMG, Bunny, you just have to read this! I promise you’ll love it. Like, you’ll love it almost too much.
- Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, a really significant work of horror.
- This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year. Surreal and clever, poignant and parodying, it says so much and resonates so strongly. Keep your highlighter nearby; you’ll want to save many lines, bunny.
~@Bunny (Chris O’Halloran)
- You are so talented Bunny! Your angry sarcastic voice is deep and fun, I love you! The way you captured outsiderness, how your words mirrored human behavior, I want to read 5,000 pages more, Bunny!!
- Bunnies, I loved this book. The ambiguity led to some really engaging discussions, and Awad does a great job of mixing humor with pointed social commentary. In short, this novel Performs the Body and Taps the Wound.
- Honestly, it’s brilliant.
- It was sooo good, Bunny! Only, like, I think it was a little *too* artsy, like it tried a little too hard, you know? But it was such a fun read, Bunny!
- Such a fun trip into the terrors of grad school. A unique voice and a quirky vibe that I don’t believe I’ve really seen elsewhere.
- ‘i think this book is about a scary bunch of pastel women who chase me around the yard and put me in a machine […] oh god Harvey what did they do to you’
- Oh Bunny! You started off so beautifully, but your final hops let me down. You introduce interesting conversations about female friendship, but I’m not entirely sure I love what you have to say. I love your dress, though <3
- A vicious send-up of academia’s absurdity… but, like, in a good way? In a delicious way, Bunny. Ooooh, yesssss, Bunny, so delicious. Like mini cupcakes.
- Bunny takes you down the rabbit hole of examining your friendships, your social crutches and, ultimately, your narrated self. This book at once lauds and betrays itself in the best way, taking the reader along on a wild ride of negotiating friendship, academia and, of course, bunnies
Bunny is a strange and disturbing novel with a strong emotional core. A must-read.