|Publisher/s:||Head of Zeus/Jonathan Ball Publishers|
|Date of publication:||2019|
|Disclaimer:||Jonathan Ball Publishers kindly sent me this novel in exchange for an honest review.|
For the first time in my literary life I can confidently say that I understand and I have experienced the notion of a ‘fever dream’ in the fictional sense. Mona Awad’s Bunny is dreamlike from beginning to end – the kind of dream that involves massive amounts of sickly sweet candy floss and an inordinate number of spiders that seem to multiply as you swipe frantically at them. As you turn the pages of the opening chapters you will perhaps be reminded of the 1980’s film classics, Heathers and Beetlejuice where morbidity is a virtue and there is in fact a problem with being too blonde…
Samantha Heather Mackey is enrolled in a prestigious Narrative Art’s programme at Warren University. She’s supposed to be writing her thesis and hopefully graduating soon. She lives with her best friend Ava because her own small apartment is too ‘depressing’, and is also friendly with a fellow student and poet, Jonah, who is a bit strange but aren’t we all? Ava has David Bowie eyes, smokes a lot of cigarettes and sips various types of alcohol from a flask that says, Drink Me on it (very Alice in Wonderland).
The town itself is described in terms of its mass murders, rapes and consistent beheadings, and yet nothing is as frightening or is described as deliciously dangerous as her fellow fiction writers that attend Workshop with Samantha.
“We call them Bunnies because that is what they call each other. Seriously. Bunny.
What did you do last night, Bunny?
I hung out with you , Bunny. Remember, Bunny?
That’s right, Bunny, you hung out with me and it was the best time I ever had.
Bunny, I love you.
I love you, Bunny.”
The ‘Bunnies’ are made up of Cupcake aka Caroline, Creepy Doll aka Kira, Vignette aka Victoria and Duchess aka Eleanor. These clone-like Stepford drones douse themselves in a perfume that smells like a sweet confection, braid their hair in intricate ‘Game of Thrones’ knots and always wear lip gloss (because “lipstick is for whores, Bunny”). Awad’s descriptions of these terrifying women made me long for an 80’s movie marathon, or even 90’s and early 2000’s classics such as Clueless or Jawbreaker. One almost feels compelled to watch everything with Winona Ryder in it immediately for fear that the overall cutesy creepiness will disappear too quickly – like a dream.
“Bunny, this isn’t high school.
This isn’t even undergrad, Bunny.
Or an eighties movie
Or even a nineties movie”
When Samantha is not writing or in a Workshop trying to digest the experimental poetry of Cupcake or Creepy Doll, she is dancing with Ava on her roof making fun of the Bunnies and trying to pretend something weird didn’t happen between her and her thesis advisor, Alan aka The Lion a few months before. Then one day she receives a letter in the shape of a swan from The Bunnies inviting her to join them at one of their little soirées, and that will be the end of whatever ‘normal’ once was for Samantha. After some sickly sweet cocktails and a few spilled secrets she wakes up in her old apartment, no Ava in sight and strange memories of rabbits and boys dancing in her sugar-addled brain.
The rest of the novel takes on a claustrophobic and hazy atmosphere as Samantha struggles with the process of writing, and being accepted by her writing peers. She seems to move through the next few months as though wading through mud, and even the reader begins to question realities. Samantha’s relationship with The Bunnies is truly terrifying, and it is with Awad’s skilful and comedic observations and dialogue that the reader is able to fall down the very same ‘rabbit hole’, so to speak, that our heroine finds herself falling through. Of course this is honestly the best type of ‘rabbit hole’ filled with images of Frankenstein-type horror, the fear of writer’s block, fairy-tale satire and a satisfying taste of Awad’s dark humor within the walls of a deeply horrifying town and the equally terrifying creatures that inhabit it’s shadows and sometimes even it’s light.
Bunny is one of the most unique novels I have read in a long while. The premise is just delightful, in the most disturbing way, and Awad’s voice and perspectives are both fresh and world-weary. Absolutely brilliant!