Bunny by Mona Awad

If this means anything to you:

then you probably ought to read Bunny by Mona Awad. But be warned, it’s a bizarre book – campus-lit meets magic realism meets what-the-hell-was-that meets Weird Science

In a clear homage to Heathers, Awad has created a story about a clique of post-grad narrative arts students, known as the Bunnies. They attend Warren, a small New England college. It begins with a party, or rather a ‘Demitasse’ because ‘…this school is too Ivy and New England to call a party a party.’

The narrator, Samantha, who privately refers to the Bunnies as the ‘Cuntscapades’, hates their preening, their simpering language, the ‘…A-line hems of their cupcake dresses…’ and the ornate braids in their ‘…Game of Thrones hair.’ Yet despite her outward disdain for the Bunnies, Samantha is morbidly curious about these women whose post-grad experience appears to be far more productive than her own –

No way in hell they would ever invite me to Smut Salon. That was their own private Bunny thing, like Touching Tuesdays or binge-watching The Bachelorette or making little woodland creatures out of marzipan.

But the Bunnies do invite Samantha to their soirée and, ignoring her best friend Ava’s scorn, Samantha enters their strange world, filled with pastel coloured frocks, mini foods, group hugs and mutual adoration. Plus some rituals where the Bunnies conjure men from rabbits, according to their idea of a ‘dream man’ –

“Perhaps then we could draw from film, winkingly indulge in some campy nostalgia,” offers Bunny. This means Bunny wants James Dean again, leaning against a wooden post again. John Cusack in Say Anything again, holding up his boom box in the rain again.

It’s frightening stuff and Awad successfully blurs the line between satire and horror.

Although the story is rife with wolfmen wearing glitter, decapitations, and campus muggings, the dialogue is alarmingly realistic, probably because Awad skewers campus life and academia so perfectly. She describes ‘…the students walking here and there, discussing Derrida and their nose jobs…’, exposes the ridiculousness of the language, and the pompous ideas –

I still don’t quite understand what it means to write about The Body with title caps but I always nod like I do. Oh yes, The Body, of course. Other words I’ve been keeping track of: space, gesture, and perform. “I appreciate the uncertainty the piece gestures toward… I just think she could go further into the dream space.”

Awad’s razor-sharp one-liners are poetic – ‘I am quiet as rainbows’ and ‘…clapping her hands like he’s an approaching parade’ – as well as funny – ‘Last night seems as unspeakable as money or a fart’ and ‘She gives me the full hate bouquet of her smile. Every fuck you flower’ and ‘…the poets brace themselves for imminent, overeducated poverty.’ Her descriptions are arresting. Of her ex-boyfriend’s voice, Samantha says –

‘He had one of those deep, serene, all-knowing voices like a documentary narrator. Like any moment he could tell you a fact about a penguin or the war and you’d believe him. It was soothing. But sexy too. Like a tongue was being dragged up your inner thigh every time he said hi.’

And in their writing workshop, Samantha notes that the Bunnies ‘…would look down at each story I submitted like it was a baby that just gave them the finger, and then side-eye each other for a long time.’

Although Awad’s antagonists obviously riff off the likes of Heathers, Carrie and Mean Girls, and it seems she leans on these references a little too much at times, the writing is so sharp and memorable that you can’t help but think how much you appreciate Awad’s gesture toward creating a new space for the campus-lit-science-fiction-satire-trope (see what I did there?).

4/5 Original and very, very clever.

I received my copy of Bunny from the publisher, Head of Zeus, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Bunny takes a sip of her mini French 75 and looks at us…challenging us… “Perhaps some sort of revisionist fairy-tale work?” Bunny suggests. “A subversive play on canonical tropes?” Which we know is short for Bunny wanting a merman again. Or another wolf in the woods. Or some pale, sober prince emerging from the briars to climb her hair.

7 responses

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