Not to be Overlooked
By Sandhya Christine Theodore and Natalia Alvarez
Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of Bunny by Mona Awad and Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson.
Bunny by Mona Awad
Review by Sandhya Christine
Bunny is a surreal, academia-centric horror novel by Mona Awad. Samantha Heather Mackey is a writing student in an elite, experimental master’s programme. The rest of her all-female cohort is nothing like her. They come from old-money privilege, seem to never suffer from writer’s block and share an embarrassingly performative friendship that involves calling each other “Bunny,” Samantha despises them all. The dislike seems to be mutual until she gets an invitation to their “Smut Salon,” an exclusive gathering where they share erotic literature. As she gets drawn into their world of cupcakes and frills, she starts to lose touch with her only friend Ava and possibly, reality.
As Samantha gets further into the cult-like world of the Bunnies, the story becomes increasingly surreal. It is impossible to tell whether some of the scenes are depictions of reality or drug-induced hallucinations. The book ends with an unbelievable climax that will leave you desperately flipping through the pages hoping to find an explanation.
The vibrant cover and cutesy name does not prepare you for the wild and gruesome story of Bunny. This is not too different from the world of the story itself where restaurants serving miniature food and the imminent risk of running into axe-murderers coexist. Awad’s descriptions of people, places and incidents make this novel a very engaging read. Her characters are perfect blends of tropes and contradictions. The narrator’s voice is both bitingly funny and tinged with raw emotion.
Bunny is a fantastic novel for anyone interested in a uniquely feminine horror story. The novel explores a disgustingly dark side of female friendships, desires and rage. The novel feels like an unnerving mix of Mean Girls, Dead Poets Society and a Melanie Martinez music video. If that seems like your cup of tea, be prepared for a sinister university environment, queer-coded friendships and exploding bunny-men hybrids.
Mouth to Mouth - Antoine Wilson
Review by Natalia Alvarez
For this issue, I have chosen to review Antoine Wilson’s newest book, Mouth to Mouth. Published in January 2022 by Avid Reader Press, this is a relatively quick read, coming in at a mere 179 pages, with each chapter taking up only three to four pages. Despite its short length, there is a lot to be examined through Wilson's decision to incorporate imaginative language and metaphors to bring his characters to life while also leaving them as mysteries to readers. This is a story where we as readers find ourselves playing telephone with an unreliable narrator, and must decide for ourselves how much, if any of the story we're being told is true.
The novel opens at an airport, where two old college acquaintances (our unnamed narrator and a man named Jeff Cook) see each other again after more than twenty years. While they wait for their flights, they catch up and we begin to learn more about how the image of Jeff Cook today is completely different from the Jeff Cook our narrator went to college with. He appears clean-cut and well-off, when in college he seemed to our narrator as a go-with-the-flow kind of guy who would never be caught dead in a suit. As Jeff begins recounting all that has happened to him since college, a crazy story comes to light.
While Jeff’s story starts off describing lost love, it quickly changes when Jeff talks about the time he saved an art dealer named Arsenault from drowning by performing mouth-to-mouth. Jeff believes this experience has connected him and Arsenault, and he seeks him out months later. However, Arsenault does not feel the same. Unlike most people who have near-death experiences, his close call does not make him change his ways at all. He continues to cheat on his wife and treat those around him disrespectfully. This makes Jeff question if saving his life was the right thing to do.
This is a story that examines morality while providing intimate access to the generally closed-off art world. We must constantly be on the lookout to try and catch these characters in a lie and nothing that is told can be 100% trusted. This made for a very fun read, and I would greatly recommend this novel to anyone looking for something short and entertaining to keep them busy.