What even is this book? I didn’t get it at all. And part me is a little embarassed to admit that because this is so clearly a book that’s trying to say something and, yes, I get that it’s all a metaphor and kill your darlings and what not, but I don’t get it. Maybe I need to stop reading books set in MFA programs because I’m beginning to find them all kind of pretentious
The plot is basically that Samantha Heather Mackey (Get it? She’s a Heather? Get it?) is an MFA writing student in a cohort with four other women who are best friends. They are always together, constantly hugging and coooing over one another, and they call each other Bunny. Samantha doesn’t fit in with these four because she’s edgy and dark and a misfit and not rich like them. She’s an outsider, you guys, and has experienced real pain, not like rich people who never, ever suffer in any way. (Maybe the bunnies have suffered, we don’t actually learn anything about their lives outside of what Samantha sees.)
Samantha’s only friend is Ava, an artist who doesn’t seem to have a job and is not a student at Warren like the others but hangs out there a lot. (The university is called Warren? Do you get it? There’s also a statue of a rabbit on campus for some reason. Plus there are a lot of rabbits who run wild on the campus and this is the part of the novel I found most believable since I went to a university overrun by rabbits.) As annoying as I found ur narrator, Samantha, I hated Ava. Samantha describes her in great length, lingering on her appearance, how cool she is, how wonderful. But nothing Ava does or says convinced me that she was a particularly interesting person. She’s a terrible friend and their whole relationship seemed weirdly co-dependent. (Which does kind of make sense in the end but was frustrating to read about and made me annoyed every time Ava appeared on the page.)
One day Samantha is invited to join the Bunnies at what they call their Smut Salon. Why do they call it that? Why do they never have another Smut Salon throughout the year the book follows these characters? Was it simply a lazy plot device? Samantha hates the bunnies but is also drawn to them and it doesn’t take long before she becomes one of them and learns their dark secret.
Of course there’s a dark secret. But the secret is so ridiculous, so over-the-top absurd, so outside the realm of possibility, and blatantly metaphorical that it almost makes me angry to think about it now. Don’t get me wrong, I like the fantastical, I love some magic realism in a novel. But it has to make sense within the world of the story. It has to follow its own logic, whatever that world’s logic may be. I’ll happily buy into the fantastical rules the author creates but she has to, you know, create them. I read this whole book waiting for that explanation and it never came. In the end, the best that I can come up with is that Samantha has schizophrenia.
I really want to rant further but can’t without spoiling the plot. If you’ve read the book, please join me in the comments!
The novel is pretty clearly aiming to make a statement about MFA programs, about the stresses of graduate schools, and the commodification of creativity. It’s an increasingly popular subject among young novelists. Here’s my issue with it (and I say this as someone with a BFA so I’m not completely unfamiliar with this world): Writers, this is not a relatable setting! The vast majority of people have not done an MFA and don’t know what you’re talking about. And unfortunately most of these novels consist largely of criticizing and complaining about MFA programs. You know, a completely optional program that no one has ever been forced to participate in. You don’t even need an MFA if you do want to be a writer. It’s a requirement for nothing. (Again, I have a writing degree and I loved my undergrad. I’m not criticizing the existence of these programs.)
To get back to Bunny though, I also found that I was frustrated by the bunnies themselves. While they are each unique I found myself struggling to keep track of who was who even at the end of the book. Samantha has nicknames for them and uses these interchangeably with their actual names which didn’t help. From the moment we see them on the page it seems that we’re supposed to dislike them because they are grown women who are close. Yes, they definitely turn out to be evil, terrible people but Samantha is so judgemental toward them before she knows any of this. Are they a group of women I would hang out with? No. But I strongly dislike this trope of there being something diabolical about a group of women who are close friends.
I came very close to quitting this book before the end several times but did read the whole thing because I wanted to see how it ended. So I guess it has that going for it.
My impetus for reading this book was several positive reviews from other book bloggers so clearly opinion on Bunny is widely divided. If you’ve read it, comment and let me know if you agree with me at all or if you liked it a lot more than I did!