cover image Patricia Wants to Cuddle

Patricia Wants to Cuddle

Samantha Allen. Zando, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-1-63893-004-4

Allen (Real Queer America) debuts with an amusing and jolting look at a dating show gone horribly wrong. Four contestants on the reality show The Catch—think Naked and Afraid meets The Bachelor—converge on an eerie island in the Pacific Northwest. There’s the reserved Renee Irons, Christian influencer Lilah-Mae Adams, shrewd model Vanessa Voorhees, and cheerful vlogger Amanda Parker. All face harrowing events as they vie for a spot in the show’s finale (and a proposal from entrepreneur Jeremy Blackstone). With only two weeks to go, the women try to advance their goals, which vary from finding true love to boosting their social media brands—but they soon begin to glimpse a mysterious “creature” named Patricia lurking in the shadows. When Patricia finally strikes, the results are grotesque and shocking, laying bare the island’s dark history. The characters, however, often feel flat, with insufficient details about the women’s lives, and Allen leaves several loose ends dangling. Still, she cleverly explores themes of human connection, social acceptance, and the harms of social media as the contestants vie for what they want and the show’s producer takes staggering measures to boost ratings. Despite the flaws, there’s enough invention here to keep readers on board. Agent: Leila Campoli, Stonesong. (June)