It looks cute. It’s a got a chic black-and-pink cover. But don’t be fooled, between the covers of Mona Awad’s Bunny lies some of the weirdest shit published this year – and that’s saying a lot. Bunny is a horror novel for fans of Heathers, but also for book-lovers. Literary humor hasn’t been this grotesque since the days of Roald Dahl and Vladimir Nabokov, but it’s still side-splittingly funny. Bunny roasts not only modern MFA programs, but also modern literature and every reader whose come into tangential contact with them will find it hilarious.
The MFA program under scrutiny is fictional Warren University, an exclusive private college in a very big city in New England with a bunch of other colleges. A working class student from somewhere in the Western states, Samantha applied and got into Warren’s MFA program despite having no confidence that she would be a good fit. Now, she lives on a stipend in an apartment she can barely afford with one friend, the mysterious artist Ava, and a cohort full of Bunnies. Bunnies are female graduate students, working towards their MFAs, who act like small girls. They wear pink whenever possible, or dresses printed with kittens, cupcakes and sometimes both. They all refer to each as “Bunny” in the same way that Ninja Turtles call each “dude.” Samantha gives them all her own nicknames – Creepy Doll, Cupcake, Vignette, and the Duchess – until they ask her to join them in their off-hours literary experiments. The Bunnies work together as a coven, idealizing men and turning actual rabbits into their creations. When these creations turn out not to working brains, hands, or genitals, the Bunnies take an ax and kill them.
Yes, it gets weirder! Hilariously so! Samantha manages to turn a buck deer into a dreamboat named Max, who proceeds to screw Samantha and the Bunnies’ lives up even further. Samantha’s caustic narration only makes the admittedly dark plotline actually pretty funny in a Cabin in the Woods-kind-of-way. As Samantha attempts to navigate the world of Warren University, her involvement with the Bunnies leads down deeper and stranger paths in the underworld of creativity and art. The prose that makes up the bones of this exploits all the fluffy and intentional vague novels that have praised recently as excellent literature even though they all read the same. This book takes a hard look at the writing process and lampoons it.
About the only place where the story isn’t making self-depr3cating jokes is Samantha’s own awareness of the men in her life. Samantha’s mentally dominated by the spectre of The Lion, her thesis advisor, whose approval she desperately wants, until their relationship borders on more than professional. It should be no wonder than that local poet Jonah shows a similar interest despite literally driving her all the city at one point. The Jonah plotline never really changes, nor does he meaningfully affect the Bunnies’ crazy schemes. Jonah just predicatably endures Samanatha’s neglect until the end of the story, when with nothing else to do, she agrees to go out with him. As they say in literary circles, this feels a little “unearned” and also its a lone expected item in a long string of surprises.
Despite the ending, Bunny is among the funniest books written this year. Bunny is sure to make you laugh, although there’s no telling at which part. Read Bunny and then give it as a white elephant gift. Your friends might never forgive if you don’t share this book.
Four stars out of five.
Favorite quote: “Now, the fairy tale is dark and stabby like this alley, but in the movie version, there is a talking snowman and songs we love to sing. We are singing the one now where icy girl is alone on a snowy hill lamenting that she is icy in her heart. She wants to change but she cannot because her heart has turned to ice.”