Book Review: Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen

After the mysterious disappearances of 3 hikers in the 1990s, Pacific Northwest LGBTQ getaway Otters Island saw its tourism industry all but completely dry up. In the present day, reality-dating show The Catch, a one-time ratings juggernaut now just chugging along, brings their production to Otters to tape the penultimate episodes as a way to save money versus the more lavish locales featured on previous seasons. The final 4 girls, social-media influencer Amanda, mean-girl model Vanessa, holier-than-thou Lilah-Mae, and completely disinterested Renee, who feels like she has only been kept around this long as the token Black contestant, arrive on the island to woo wealthy tech bachelor Jeremy, but each with their own agendas.

As the book moves between their various perspectives, along with that of producer Casey, hints that something is amiss at their destination appear in the background, though everyone is too involved in the show and its petty dramas to pay them too much mind. While the character descriptions make them sound like cliches, each of the group wind up being developed well, Renee especially, who is struggling with her repressed feelings of attraction towards other women.

Of course, they should have paid a lot more attention to those early warning signs, as a female Bigfoot named Patricia lurks in the woods, watching them, and craving some affection of her own. When she finally makes herself known, chaos ensues, and most of the cast and crew won’t make it through the night alive.

The focus of the first 2/3’s or so of the novel is squarely on fleshing out the cast and delivering some razor-sharp satire of American reality TV and influencer culture, with only hints and teases of what’s to come flitting around the periphery. Fortunately, this portion is so amusingly written that it sails by, dropping acid-tipped barbs as it goes. At one point, Renee says of their ostensible prize Jeremy that trying to describe him, “is like trying to describe the empty space inside an atom; he’s technically there, but for all intents and purposes, he isn’t.” The mix of humor, drama, and brief flashes of monster works well to keep the reader engaged and the tension surprisingly high. When Patricia does finally burst onto the scene and the blood begins to flow, the scares feel well-earned.

While there is some social commentary inherent to the story, this is above all a fun, weird little book. The premise of a small group being hunted through the woods by a lesbian Bigfoot may sound like something dreamt up by SyFy, but the sharp observations and well-drawn cast elevate it well above its B-movie influences. It is unlikely there will be another book this year that is both this entertaining and this unique. ★★★★

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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