Allen, Samantha. Patricia Wants to Cuddle. Zando. June 2022. 256 pgs. $27.00. HC. 9781638930044.
The final four contestants in a bachelor-like reality show called The Catch arrive at the penultimate shooting location – a remote and cold island where they will be glamping until two of the women are eliminated. When a shadow begins looming in the backdrop, elimination becomes literal, and the contestants aren’t the only ones in danger of not making it to the finale.
If the summary seems trite, don’t let it fool you. This propulsive novel is both satire and horror – though more Slasher Horror than Psychological Horror, even with the monster lurking in the woods. It also serves as a commentary on consumerism, social media, reality TV, climate activism and queer survival, while maintaining a sense of absurdity throughout. Although it depends heavily on stereotyping the reality show characters (less-so the crew), the narratives itself manages to defy expectations. It is an enticing mess of contradictions, which is a space that Samantha Allen knows how to fill with ease, having previously written a book about the strength of queer communities in red states in the U.S.
The use of multiple narrators gives readers a “behind the look” type of experience both with the show that is being filmed, as well as the mystery that is unfolding. It is interspersed with chat room transcripts from fans of the show discussing rumors and front-runners, as well as blog posts from the first time women went missing on the island. This is a book that will have you picking favorites, with characters and antics that will have you rolling your eyes as often as rolling on the floor.
Patricia wants to Cuddle is going to land best with those who are a fan of comedy horror films, who don’t mind some guts and gore, and don’t need to be placated with a tidy ending. If you like the weird discomfort you get from reading Kristen Arnett, or the pulp absurdity of Oyinkan Braithwaite, you will like this book. An excerpt is available online at them.