Bunny by Mona Awad fulfilled the category “Dark Academia” for the
PopSugar 2021 Reading Challenge. The novel takes place at Warren University
(pun intended, I’m sure) where Samantha Mackey is a graduate student working on
her MFA in fiction.
so what did I just read? This story confused and confounded me. I wasn’t even sure what genre we
were diving into. At first, it seemed a coming-of-age book—dealing with classes
(literally and socially) and Samantha’s finding a place in the world. Then the novel
went dark, very dark. Since I picked it for the Dark Academia prompt, it should
have. And the story totally fell down the rabbit hole (pun intended). The book
is full of Alice references. More on that later.
So basic plot: Samantha is attending a very elite, excellent
school to get a master’s in fine arts.
She’s a victim of huge losses in her short life. Her mother died when she was a
young teen, her father is in hiding because of his criminal activity, and she
broke and friendless. Samantha has built many walls so that she has a hard time
making friends and understanding kindness. She follows all the wrong rabbits
and ends up in a grad class with four picture-perfect “bunnies.” The women in
her group whom she must work with are cardboard cutouts. They are rich,
perfect, and pretentious (more on that later too.) Samantha hates them but
wants to be a part of the group. All goes wrong when she falls into their club (cult).
want to give too much away on this story in case you want to take this ride
too. To solve her problems, Samantha must find out who she really is, what she
really wants, and how to get it. But it’s all in a dark, sad, Alice in
Wonderland way. It’s not the literary nonsense of Lewis Carroll. Things
make sense, to a point. But it’s easy to see how the author plays on the themes
Carroll uses in his books—absurdism, non-logic, and rabbits everywhere. (A neat
YA read that totally gets Carroll’s style is Heartless by Marissa Meyer.
It was on point. Anyway… ) Ms. Awad uses the bunnies/rabbits to show how deep
Samantha is down the rabbit hole and how she must find her way through
Wonderland (Warren) to find a way home. Sam’s best friend even has a Drink Me
flask and the women are always eating mini foods, especially cupcakes. I found these
allusions helped ground me in the story because the references gave me some
handholds to get through the tale.
Absurdism and Dark Academia behind, I have to admit
part of this book annoyed me, a writer, not a reader. I do not have an MFA, nor
do I plan to get one because… snobbery. The pretentiousness of this novel made
me crazy. The Bunnies—the four women in Samantha’s group—wrote very bold, snobby, overly done things. One
woman etched her work into glass (more Wonderland). Our heroine was annoyed and
disgusted by their airs. But she had her own. As I listened to the vocabulary,
images, and structure of Samantha’s words (she narrates), she was just as
snooty. I’m a writer of tales for the average person. I don’t believe in some
of the high-handedness of literature and its writers. Classics are great, in
moderation. (I’ve got one for you next week.) But please don’t throw your
pretty words at me and think you are better than average. Honestly, it was
obnoxious with all the flowery images and deep anxiety prose. Sigh, snore, move
So with all that, Bunny isn’t that bad. I wish I had a
book group to talk about it with!
I give Bunny
by Mona Awad Three and a half Pink Fluffy Bunnies. Wait, ew! Okay, four.