FINALIST FOR THE 2021 PEN/FAULKNER AWARD
"Full of verve... Revelatory." —Los Angeles Times
A dazzling and darkly comic novel of love, violence, and friendship in the California suburbs
Bunny Lampert is the princess of North Shore—beautiful, tall, blond, with a rich real-estate-developer father and a swimming pool in her backyard. Michael—with a ponytail down his back and a septum piercing—lives with his aunt in the cramped stucco cottage next door. When Bunny catches Michael smoking in her yard, he discovers that her life is not as perfect as it seems. At six foot three, Bunny towers over their classmates. Even as she dreams of standing out and competing in the Olympics, she is desperate to fit in, to seem normal, and to get a boyfriend, all while hiding her father's escalating alcoholism. Michael has secrets of his own. At home and at school Michael pretends to be straight, but at night he tries to understand himself by meeting men online for anonymous encounters that both thrill and scare him. When Michael falls in love for the first time, a vicious strain of gossip circulates and a terrible, brutal act becomes the defining feature of both his and Bunny's futures—and of their friendship. With storytelling as intoxicating as it is intelligent, Rufi Thorpe has created a tragic and unflinching portrait of identity, a fascinating examination of our struggles to exist in our bodies, and an excruciatingly beautiful story of two humans aching for connection.
Thorpe's fierce third novel (after Dear Fang, with Love) observes the development of and challenges to an intense friendship between two outcasts at a Southern California high school in the early 2010s. Michael, gay and closeted, has lived in a shabby house with his aunt and cousin since he was 11, when his mother was sent to prison for nonfatally stabbing his father. In the mansion next door lives Bunny Lambert, an immature volleyball star who desperately wants a boyfriend and, at 6 3" at the end of her junior year, fears she is a "complete monster." While Bunny copes with an alcoholic father and bullying by her classmates, Michael hooks up with guys he meets online. Neighbors and classmates since middle school, Bunny and Michael don't meet until 10th grade, and their friendship develops as Bunny explores her "girliness" around Michael, while he can "practice being gay." When students start gossiping about Michael, Bunny pummels one of the girls hard enough to cause a critical injury. While the novel's plot is thin and rests perhaps too heavily on the dire consequences of this moment of violence, the two central characters are deeply realized and complex. The result cannily dissects the power and limits of adolescent friendship.