Alaya Rathore Mathur
Bunny by Mona Awad is one of the most memorable books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in recent months. You will be immersed in the book’s world of surreal, eccentric, dark academia. Bunny includes the topics of toxic and obsessive female friendships, confusion over sexuality, and imposter syndrome arising from existing in a privileged world as an unprivileged person. But with the addition of witchcraft, cults, insanity and a dash of body horror for good measure, Awad presents these topics through a different lens unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Bunny could be aptly summarised as Alice in Wonderland, if Alice went through the rabbit hole and ended up at a prestigious art college which was populated by the cast of Heathers. Think of your dream pastiche of Jennifer’s Body meets American Psycho meets Heathers, with a sprinkling of Mean Girls and Scream Queens; that’s Bunny in a nutshell. It’s fun to spot the odes to other media and literature peppered throughout the book. It’s like Awad cross-referenced every chapter with Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp. It’s particularly entertaining to read at a time when campy media is having a huge resurgence and being catapulted into mainstream viewership with decades-old movies such as Jennifer’s Body and Heathers being watched by new generation of viewers, decades after they were first put out. It’s fun to spot the odes to other media and literature peppered throughout the book.
The novel follows the narrator Samantha, who attends a prestigious private university through the means of a scholarship. She is an outsider with a serious case of imposter syndrome who is seethingly jealous of the bunnies, a tight-knit clique of rich girls in her classes. She is used to watching them engage in their own little world from the shadows, but one day she is invited to join them at one of their literary workshops – an invitation she can’t resist despite her claims to hate the bunnies and all they represent. Slowly, Samantha is sucked into the cloyingly sweet world of the bunnies, losing her grip on reality as she gets in deeper. She struggles to choose between her relationship with her best friend Ava, who is the foil to the bunnies – she loathes them with every fibre of her being. When they wear pink, she wears black. When they coo and squeal, she glowers in silence. When they speak with a saccharine candy shell to veil their truth, her tongue is unapologetically sharp and candid. Other characters in the book are Jonah, a brilliant poet with a penchant for addiction who is hopelessly in love with Samantha, who represents the good in the world. There’s the Lion, Samantha’s ex professor-slash-lover, who is still very much on her mind.
Without giving too much away, the bunnies are nothing short of a cult. They think, move and act as one, like some great anamorphous many-headed monster. They are sickeningly privileged and painfully exclusive. Samantha both despises them and desperately wishes to be one of them. At times, as a narrator she can be frustrating with her irritatingly individualist mindset, when her combined hatred and idolatry of the bunnies comes across as pure internalised misogyny. As the plot progresses and she is sucked further into the bunnie’s cult Samantha spirals into insanity as she is brainwashed further with every moment. The writing style represents the unravelling of the characters as it becomes more violent and unhinged, and the delineation between what is real and imaginary becomes less substantial as Samantha falls further.
Her writing style keeps you engaged through interesting metaphors and allegories throughout
There are a lot of things to enjoy about Awad’s writing; her humour is pitch black and starkly self-aware, her writing style keeps you engaged through interesting metaphors and allegories throughout. The cultural references are done well in my opinion, which is something that many writers can easily overdo to a point where it can be cringe-worthy. But where Awad excels is at visceral character building and gloriously rich descriptions of the people in Samantha’s world. The bunnies are icky, twee, grotesque, and whimsical. They are monstrous and adorable at once. They make you recoil with disgust and yet crave more. Their world is pink-and-white, glitter and cotton-candy, lace and teacups, rainbows and unicorns. They exist on a different plane of reality to everyone else in the contrastingly dull world of academia and drudgery that Awad describes.
The plot feels like a car without a driver hurtling down a hill at full speed
If you liked Boy Parts by Eliza Clark, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, or The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I think you would like Bunny. The book is surreal, eccentric, chaotic, insane and just plain weird, but as the bunnies would say, ‘in the BEST way’ – I read this in one sitting whilst in quarantine and finished feeling as if I had just awoken from a bizarre, insane fever dream which I could still remember in vivid detail. The plot feels like a car without a driver hurtling down a hill at full speed. If you stick with it though; there’s a brilliant twist at the end which will make you want to re-read the whole book immediately. I have a new favourite and I look forward to reading more of Mona Awad’s work.
Alaya Rathore Mathur
Featured image courtesy of gerlos via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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