Literal Hotties will focus on reviews and recommendations of titles by womxn of colour, both fiction and non-fiction. Spoilers ahead!
“Picture that famous Bake Off scene; “started making it, had a breakdown, bon appetit”, and welcome to the world of Bunny.”
I like to imagine that reading Bunny is a lot like being on an intense trip. The sheer amount of times I yelled ‘what the fuck?’ and ‘HOLDDDD UP’ can be counted on toes as well as fingers. Mona Awad’s novel is dark academia galore, thrown in with some Heathers and Mean Girls, perhaps even Fight Club, and voila, you’re left with a catatonic plot.
Picture that famous Bake Off scene; “started making it, had a breakdown, bon appetit”, and welcome to the world of Bunny. I can assure you that all these comparisons are within reason, because even though the blurb promises a wild ride, I still wasn’t quite prepared. Bunny begins with our classic poor scholarship student Sam, who doesn’t particularly fit into any of the social circles in her MFA creative writing class, but is talented nonetheless.
Though it is a trope that is done often within fiction, Sam being the loner and outsider of this highly prestigious class serves the story well. Her only friend, Ava – who isn’t actually in her class – is the only person Sam seems to ever talk to.
The reader is thrown into this story halfway through Sam’s MFA, where you are only just introduced to the predicaments she is in after her first semester. Sam is barely making ends meet with her scholarship, an outcast to the rich twats who romanticise suffering and poverty in their writing, and has a somewhat questionable relationship with her former assistant professor, now turned tutor for her final project. Don’t shit where you eat, babes.
It takes a few chapters to pick up, but appears intentional in order to understand the gravity of Sam’s boredom and dissatisfaction with her life and herself. The shift in tone of the story arrives by the invitation from an unbearable clique of girls known as ‘the Bunnies’. They are exactly what you envision; heeled-brogue wearing, Dad-where’s-your-Amex-card holding, cardigan-collecting twee white girls. The type of girls who smile while giving you backhanded compliments, a smile so sweet and forced that it’s marginally terrifying.
The invitation comes when Sam feels isolated in her class – and much like Cady Heron – at a point where she is both curious and secretly desperate to fit in. The Bunnies invite Sam to what is known as their ‘smut salon’; a private workshop that the Bunnies take part in weekly to work on their writing skills. Sam goes out of curiosity, and doesn’t question any of the Bunnies when they give her a strange drink. Whatever, Sam thinks, it’s just the Bunnies – annoying and harmless – it’ll be fine.
Narrator: It was not fine.
“The Bunnies latch onto her the same way I’m gonna latch onto the club dancefloor when outside opens up again, and slowly Sam descends into what is almost like a comedic horror sequence of manipulation”
For the most part, Sam can’t remember many details about the night, except that she was coerced into telling the Bunnies one of her darkest secrets, and – out of desperation to impress them – it is a secret she half exaggerates to make her appear less dull. She speaks of an old highschool crush that she had lost her virginity to in the back of the school car park, on the night they performed alongside each other in the school play. In reality, he had barely looked at her, and all of her story was mere schoolgirl fantasies. But fair one Sam, I would have done it too. She has flashes of memories as she is put into a cab and sent home, and left feeling horrifically hungover the next day.
The Bunnies latch onto her the same way I’m gonna latch onto the club dancefloor when outside opens up again, and slowly Sam descends into what is almost like a comedic horror sequence of manipulation and drug induced hallucinations – that may not actually be hallucinations – as she becomes one of the Bunnies. It’s almost as if she is absorbed by them, and whoever she was before is now a sketch on a piece of paper that has been rubbed out with an eraser. The Bunnies share one collective identity, they all call each other Bunny – shocking – and have barely any individual traits left within them.
It’s a chorus of behaviour and attachment that almost appears cult like, both fascinating and uncomfortable to witness as a reader. Though Sam appears to be happy, it becomes abundantly clear that she is in fact imprisoned in the collective consciousness that the Bunnies have created.
In Sam’s recollections before becoming a Bunny, she recognises that this is a pattern. The Bunnies began as a duo, then befriended a third, and then a fourth. In all honesty, I don’t remember their names, though it always seems to be an intentional decision; through Sam’s perspective, they blend into one another. Except for one, aptly nicknamed The Duchess by Sam, she has all the glamorous allure of Regina George whilst also simmering with a violent vindictiveness beneath her cherry lip balm smile.
“Sam is in deep, but in her current state she doesn’t appear to be keeping up with the gravity of the situation in the same way the reader has. Mona Awad successfully constructs a series of chapters in this fashion, making it disorienting but thrilling for the reader.”
What ensues in these very tumultuous and fever dreamlike chapters ranges from satanic rituals where rabbits are sacrificed to Frankenstein-esque creations of extremely good looking men, who can’t seem to hold conversation. Sam is in deep, but in her current state she doesn’t appear to be keeping up with the gravity of the situation in the same way the reader has. Mona Awad successfully constructs a series of chapters in this fashion, making it disorienting but thrilling for the reader.
It’s like being on the toilet in the middle of a night out, and in that moment your mind is moving at a significantly slower rate than actual time. Not realising until tomorrow that despite that specific moment feeling incredibly long, the memory barely lasts a second in your head. God, I miss that feeling. Please let me out, Boris.
Bunny leaves the reader searching for the missing pieces, and as a result you are consistently trying to comprehend what is going on throughout this segment of the story with a vigour and enthusiasm that borders addictiveness to the book.
However, saving the best for last, the true star of the show is Ava. The former art student, chain-smoking best friend of Sam. Her roughness and silver tongue are softened by her adoration and devotion to our protagonist. Because of their differences in temperament they are just perfect for each other; the writer and the painter, the loudmouth and the mute. Their relationship is rocked when Sam is enveloped by the Bunnies, but this does not deter Ava from saving her best friend in the slightest.
“You know when people say sometimes your soulmate isn’t always someone you romantically love? That’s Ava and Sam, there’s a fierce protectiveness and unwavering loyalty that lays between them”
Nah guys, let me take a minute. ‘Cause the way I get in my feelings about Ava and her friendship with Sam is too much.
You know when people say sometimes your soulmate isn’t always someone you romantically love? That’s Ava and Sam, there’s a fierce protectiveness and unwavering loyalty that lays between them – and at times this can seem worryingly co-dependent – that is mesmerising to see. It’s the type of ‘you’re the love of my life and I hate everyone but you’ forever friendship, the ones that break your heart when you see them going through a rough time. Reader, I’d die for them.
It’s because of these suffocating friendships and hallucinations that you end up bypassing what is glaring you in the face. The type of twists you call yourself a dumb bitch for missing, but commend Mona Awad for sneaking past you at all. It takes a particular skill to occupy the reader and their mind so much, without overloading it, that they miss other small yet significant details that are almost glaring at you in the face.
Bunny leaves you feeling bereft in a way where you have been fed generously throughout the novel, only to be denied dessert. Simply because you have been left to make what you believe is the ending up on your own, and it leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth. So much of Sam’s journey is left for you to decide in regards to whether it was real or not. Was it a hallucination? Witchcraft? Crack? Is it even real, man? WHO THE FUCK KNOWS!!
I’m still deciding.
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