“What do you think, Samantha?” Fosco asks me. That it’s a piece of pretentious shit. That it says nothing, gives nothing. That I don’t understand it, that probably no one does and no one ever will. That not being understood is a privilege I can’t afford. That I can’t believe this woman got paid to come here. That I think she should apologize to trees. Spend a whole day on her knees in the forest, looking up at the trembling aspens and oaks and whatever other trees paper is made of with tears in her languid eyes and say, I’m fucking sorry. I’m sorry that I think I’m so goddamned interesting when it is clear that I am not interesting. Here’s what I am: I’m a boring tree murderess. But I look at Vignette, at Creepy Doll, at Cupcake, the Duchess. All of them staring at me now with shy smiles. “I think I’d like to see more of the soup too,” I hear myself say.”
This book was very odd. I went into it knowing that and looking forward to that. Based on reviews I had heard and my own high expectations, I really thought I’d love it. And yeah, I loved parts of it, but overall, I was left feeling disappointed. 3.5 stars.
I am not sure why everyone thought this book was so bizarre and shocking and crazy, why the ending caused their ratings to shoot up to 5 stars. It was certainly weird and different, much of the writing was very cool and original, but it definitely wasn’t pushing-the-envelope-level-weird.
I don’t want to get too into the plot, because I think going in pretty blind is beneficial here, but basically it follows a woman at an exclusive grad school who finds herself at odds with the other women in her writing group. The Bunnies, as they are called. They are some super culty and annoying group of girls that all call each other “Bunny,” and have cutsey wootsey voices. They are all archetypes that can be found in a typical “girl gang” and nothing about them is special. Except that they do creepy witchcrafty shit in their attic and have a bunch of dark secrets. And our main character, Samantha, suddenly finds herself being invited to join them. Dun dun dunnnnn.
It all sounds way more interesting than it actually is, honestly. This is a difficult book to rate, because parts of it are so brilliant. The writing was great and very avante garde, unique. It was bold and imaginative. It was very stream of consciousness in many places, as we get a running social commentary from Samantha. The biting wit and dark humor were great. I very much enjoyed the self awareness of the subject matter and what the author was satirizing. She tears apart society and is ruthless about it. However, reading that kind of writing non stop with no real plot happening began to feel like a chore about half way through. The gimmicks got old after a while and the book’s 305 pages felt way longer than that. Still, the writing and the tone were my favorite parts of the novel.
The plot was super freaking weird and very hard to keep straight, which was partly the point. What’s real, what’s happening, is this magic or a hallucination, what is this fever dream we are reading about?? I enjoyed it for a while, and then I didn’t. After the halfway point I was pretty ready for the book to just wrap it on up. The strangeness lost its charm and got pretty tiresome. And really, I was expecting it to be weirder! With all the hype it got for being So sTraNGe, I was expecting more. This wasn’t any weirder than the works that this book reminded me of, which include American Horror Story: Coven, Jennifer’s Body, Naked Lunch, Mean Girls, and Alice in Wonderland, to name a few. It really wasn’t anything all that crazy. Also, this book is marketed as a horror novel and it is definitely not. It’s very tame.
One of the most irritating things about the books was the lack of plot. We are in Samantha’s head the whole time and it is straight up just her thoughts about everything happening to her. There is no action. When there is action it is glossed over or it fades to black and we don’t actually see anything. Samantha is super passive and has zero agency, or brains, the entire novel (which is something the author points out and makes fun of within the story, so that might be a moot point). I know we are not supposed to really like any of these characters, but still. Mega annoying to read about. I do love what the author tried to do here though, and I understand what she was going for, hence my 3.5 star rating.
One of my favorite things about the writing here was how well the author captured these feelings and ideas she was trying to convey, the social observations especially. She articulated that feeling of left out-ness so perfectly. Like Samantha’s friend was good enough for her until something better came along and she had to try it because it better right? But is it? it makes her friend seem boring and basic and dumb. She’s now embarrassed by her and what she does, when before she would join her. It’s such a common, unhappy feeling that I feel like we can all relate to, that feeling of wanting to belong. There is a creepy, manic, frantic, on-drugs writing style around the middle of the book that was very good at conveying Samantha losing her mind and not knowing what is real or not. Very well done. The author captured that feeling of not wanting to care what others think, but at the same time being so worried about it, not being strong enough to fight it. She very accurately portrayed a profoundly awkward, uncomfortable, suspicious, heartbroken lack of confidence in Samantha that was hard to read about. I have felt that before. I think we all have. Where we are incapable of being ourselves because we think the people we are trying so desperately to impress or fit in with are making fun of us or we are the butt of a joke. There is a paranoid element that the author managed to write in, as well. Her ability to write these hard, uneasy, but relatable feelings was the best part about the novel.
I am glad I read this book. It was definitely good, just not what I expected and a bit of a let-down. Some parts were amazing, but overall, it was not my favorite. I was ready for it to be over at the end there.
What did you guys think??
Thanks for reading!!
Author: Mona Awad
Genre: Horror | Fiction| Magical Realism | Adult | Suspense | Contemporary | Thriller
Publication Date: June 11th 2019
Page Count: 305 pages
Buy It: Wordery | Book Depository