In the heart of the prestigious Warren University, nestled within the halls of the Narrative Arts department, “Bunny” by Mona Awad unfolds a tale of creativity, dark fantasy, and the blurred lines between art and reality.
This 2019 novel takes us on a journey with Samantha Mackey, a 25-year-old aspiring fiction writer enrolled in an MFA program, as she navigates the complexities of academia, friendship, and self-discovery.
At its core is Samantha Mackey, the writer embarking on an MFA in creative writing.
Unlike her peers, Samantha finds herself on the fringes of a peculiar and unsettling clique known as the Bunnies—a quartet of young women who blend innocence with malice, their names as whimsical as their personalities: Creepy Doll (Kira), Cupcake (Caroline), Vignette (Victoria), and the Duchess (Eleanor).
The Bunnies, with their unsettling mix of cuteness and cult-like violence, represent a stark contrast to Samantha’s world, which she shares with Ava, her defiantly non-conformist best friend.
The duo’s disdain for the Bunnies’ bizarre rituals is palpable, yet an unexpected invitation to a Bunny event, the Smut Salon, tempts Samantha into their world, sparking tension with Ava.
The salon, a haven for the dramatic and the erotic, marks the beginning of Samantha’s entanglement with the Bunnies, pushing her further away from Ava and into a realm of unimaginable oddity.
The academic setting, with its workshops and critiques, becomes a battleground for creativity and conformity.
Samantha’s traditional storytelling clashes with the Bunnies’ avant-garde narratives, yet post-Salon, she finds herself oddly embraced by them.
Their world is one where artifice and reality blur, where rabbits are not mere animals but tools for creating “Drafts”—young men conjured from magic to serve the Bunnies’ whims.
Samantha’s descent into the heart of the Bunny clique is complete when she participates in this grotesque act of creation, losing her identity in the process.
As Samantha’s ties with the Bunnies deepen, Ava’s attempts to pull her back from the brink grow more desperate, leading to a chilling revelation.
The town’s dark underbelly, the mysterious poetry student Jonah, and a series of unsettling events culminate in a horrifying discovery: Ava’s true nature and the tragic fate that awaits her.
In a climactic confrontation, Samantha is forced to choose between the twisted loyalty of the Bunnies and the remnants of her own fractured identity.
Samantha is the 25-year-old protagonist of the story, a fiction writer pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Warren University.
She stands out as a more traditional storyteller amidst her avant-garde peers and often feels alienated from the dominant clique known as the Bunnies.
Her journey throughout the novel explores themes of identity, belonging, and the blurred lines between reality and fantasy.
Ava is Samantha’s best friend and a staunch non-conformist. She opposes the Bunnies and their peculiar ways, serving as a grounding contrast to their eccentricities.
Ava’s relationship with Samantha is central to the plot, especially as Samantha becomes more involved with the Bunnies, leading to tension and revelation about Ava’s true nature.
Creepy Doll (Kira)
Kira, nicknamed Creepy Doll, is a member of the Bunnies. Her moniker reflects the group’s blend of cutesy and sinister elements.
Caroline, or Cupcake, is another member of the Bunnies. She, like her peers, embodies the group’s mix of sweetness and malice.
Victoria, known as Vignette, forms part of the Bunnies’ clique. Her character contributes to the group’s unique and unsettling dynamic.
The Duchess (Eleanor)
Eleanor, referred to as the Duchess, completes the Bunny quartet. She represents the clique’s combination of charm and darkness.
Fosco is the instructor of the fiction workshop at Warren University. Her role in the story is to oversee the academic and creative progress of Samantha and her peers, including the Bunnies.
Jonah is a poetry student at Warren University. He emerges as a kind and amicable character, offering a contrast to the bizarre world of the Bunnies and playing a significant role in Samantha’s journey.
1. The Intersection of Art and Reality
Awad intricately explores how art influences reality and vice versa, particularly within the pressure cooker of a prestigious academic setting.
Through the fantastical process of creating living beings from rabbits, the Bunnies blur the lines between fiction and life, questioning the ethics and responsibilities of creators.
This theme is a commentary on the power of narrative to shape perceptions, relationships, and even our sense of self.
It prompts readers to consider where the boundary lies between inspiration and manipulation, and whether art justifies the means of its creation.
2. Identity and Belonging
The novel offers a penetrating look at the struggle for individuality within the conformist pressures of a group.
Samantha’s journey from an outsider to a reluctant member of the Bunnies, and finally to a conflicted protagonist, mirrors the universal quest for acceptance and the fear of isolation.
Awad uses the Bunnies’ clique as a metaphor for the sacrifices and compromises people make to fit into desired social circles, showing how these dynamics can consume and transform one’s identity.
This theme resonates with anyone who has ever felt the pull between being true to themselves and being part of a community.
3. The Dark Side of Female Friendships
Awad navigates the complex terrain of female friendships, presenting a nuanced portrayal that veers away from idealized notions.
The relationships between Samantha, Ava, and the Bunnies are fraught with jealousy, competition, and an underlying current of violence. Yet, these relationships also provide a source of strength, creativity, and deep connection.
The novel scrutinizes the dual nature of these bonds, revealing both their destructive potential and their capacity to inspire profound loyalty and change.
Through this exploration, Awad invites readers to reflect on the complexities of friendship, the roles individuals play within these dynamics, and the fine line between love and obsession.
“Bunny” is a gripping exploration of the bizarre and the surreal, set against the backdrop of academic elitism and the competitive world of creative writing.
Awad masterfully weaves themes of friendship, identity, and the perilous journey of self-discovery into a narrative that is as enchanting as it is horrifying. Through the lens of magical realism, “Bunny” challenges the boundaries between art and reality, inviting readers into a world where the fantastical becomes possible, but at a cost too dire to ignore.