Mean Girls Meets Tales from the Crypt

Author: Mona Awad

Samantha doesn’t fit in. Not at her fancy ivy league MFA program and not with her brainless and brainwashed classmates whose saccharine clique, the Bunnies, is closed to her. But it doesn’t matter. Because Samantha is here to write, to write like she never has before. Pity she hasn’t scrawled a word since moving into this ostracizing world.

But it’s ok, because Samantha has Ava, her fishnet gloved, coolly punk, avant-garde friend. Together their nights are filled with dreams, their days relishing not belonging. But what if Samantha could become a Bunny? What if the hated girls in her MFA program suddenly wanted to be her friend? What if she could find out their secrets, could be special and unique and yet belong as well?

In Bunny author Mona Award takes us on a weird journey, half mind-fuck and half brilliant albeit bitter poetry (Sylvie Plath, take a back seat here). Sam is the misfit in all of us. The one who took too long to grow up. Who loves the darkness and the weirdness a little too much yet would also do anything to leave it and just belong. It’s Mean Girls with a far darker tinge, because The Bunnies art is a living creation, one that involves ritual and sacrifice and blood, blood, blood. But hey – somewhere in that world where cupcakes and cutesy names belie horny girls with a penchant for sacrifice – it’s all ok.

This is a hard story to pin down, and admittedly one I wasn’t too excited about when it came up as the choice for one of my horror book clubs. But the point of book clubs (beyond the wine) is to seek out new authors and read books you usually wouldn’t. And that really, really paid off here. Something about Bunny spoke to me, of a time in my own life when I was immature and dark, stuck in the bitterness and definitely an outcast. Of course . . . it didn’t quite work out like this dark fairy-tale of violence and revenge, but hey, that’s the beauty of quirky fiction and an author who is not afraid of the fantastical, the weird, and the lyrically beautiful.

Now – does everything in this story entirely make sense? No . . . and yet, it kind of does. The most important things here are the writing and the atmosphere. Both simply sing, and paint such a vibrant yet macabre portrait. And the weirdness of Workshop . . . well, it comes alive at a whole new level. I likewise appreciated the way Award smugly summed up the ridiculousness inherent in some writing programs where the art becomes a caricature for intelligence, the reading nothing but “look how smart I am” boastfulness with over-the-top social commentary and metaphors spiraling out of control. The snark is incredible, ingenious, devilishly funny. A dark Goldilocks would say that this mixture of girls with teen-like hormones and axes is just right.

Now – if you’re looking to like any of the characters, well, sorry. Not to say that Sam doesn’t have a few brief moments in the beginning, before she lets her desperation and bitterness make her a monster, but it doesn’t matter. This isn’t a story you read for realism, but one for, ironically, the art. Just as Awad is making fun of art, she is also creating her own pretentious monster, one that I just couldn’t help but love.

Of course, I’d say Bunny is an acquired taste. If you’re looking for the usual horror novel with its clean answers in the end, you won’t get it. If you’re hoping for some feminism saving the day, also, you won’t get it. Everyone’s nature here is wanton, everything is messed-up and surreal and beautifully ugly. The writing sells it all more than the story, and this darkly modern fairy tale with its princess turned monster turned something else is irresistibly undefinable and yet addicting, like the very best cupcake. Consume at your own risk, bunny dear.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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