Narrator: Caitlin Davies, Michael Crouch
Published by Amulet Books
Published on 7 February 2017
Genres: Paranormal, United States, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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A gritty, psychological thriller about a mythic set of sixteen-year-old quintuplets searching for a young boy.
On Whidbey Island, the Gray quintuplets are the stuff of legend. Pixie and her brothers have always been bigger and blonder than their neighbors, as if they were birthed from the island itself. Together, they serve as an unofficial search-and-rescue team for the island, saving tourists and locals alike from the forces of wind and sea. But, when a young boy goes missing, the mysteries start to pile up. While searching for him, they find his mother’s dead body instead—and realize that something sinister is in their midst. Edgar-nominated author M. J. Beaufrand has crafted another atmospheric thriller with a touch of magical realism that fans of mystery and true crime will devour.
I was drawn to Useless Bay because I really liked the idea of a group of almost super-human quintuplets that acted as the local search and rescue on their small, isolated island.
What I found was most disappointing.
To start with, the quintuplets (all named after Rat Pack members, plus Marilyn ‘Pixie’, because their single mother is weird) were absolutely forced into this search and rescue by their obsessed mother, who yelled at them until they complied, and they were all well under eighteen years old when it started so they were all minors, and I wasn’t even sure they did it willingly. I don’t even know if that’s legal, and it’s certainly unethical to force your children, no matter how big and strong, into dangerous search and rescue missions.
Other weird things kept cropping up that made me wonder if this was set in some kind of weird alternate universe. For example, FedEx delivered a puppy to the house in a crate and left it on the front porch, despite the fact that FedEx does not transport live animals. Then, the girl of the group, our Pixie, was left to raise and train this dog, even though she’s not the one who purchased it. Everyone kept going on about how this dog was Pixie’s, but it was one of her brothers who secretly bought it. Like, what even is that? Did Pixie get lumped with the job just because she’s the girl? The brother should have taken responsibility for his own damn idea.
Back to the ethically questionable stuff: Pixie’s kind-of-love-interest Henry (I say ‘kind of’ because it’s definitely NOT a romance) is so very weirdly possessive about her, and they’re not even dating. He treats her not only like they ARE dating, when they are explicitly not (“She’s not my girlfriend!” he says repeatedly) but he also treats her like his possession, angry and jealous when other people talk about her, wanting to spend time with her and only her, and being weirdly possessive, like he was a controlling husband of the era of Hollywood stars the quints are named after. It’s just not on. Nothing about him was appealing and nothing in the book was romantic. View Spoiler »Which is why, when near the end of the book, the two suddenly kiss, I was completely unimpressed. « Hide Spoiler Also, Henry does something so awful as a child that even though he was manipulated, he can’t be forgiven.
But Pixie’s not innocent in this triumvirate of terrible, unethical characters. The inciting incident begins when Dean, the de facto ‘leader’ (like this was some kind of middle grade novel) takes the blame for something he did not do, because the quintuplets have a ‘roster of blame’. Dean was taken to the police station for questioning, and Pixie just let it happen! Even though both Pixie, and Henry, knew that it wasn’t Dean responsible for the terrible thing!
This was also billed as a gritty, psychological thriller, but I found it more suitable to a middle-grade audience. It’s neither gritty, nor psychological, nor a thriller. And no one even ‘figures out’ who the bad guy is, it’s revealed without any kind of realisation, outward or internal.
So the plot was also pretty useless. A kid goes missing at about 20%, and all through to 60%, literally nothing happens to move the plot forward. Then, when the bad guy is revealed and they’re responsible for just about every heartache, it turns out View Spoiler »the missing kid has actually been safe this whole time and two secondary characters kept it to themselves just for shits and giggles. « Hide Spoiler
On the other hand, the magical realism was pretty cool, but the book read so strongly like a middle grade even though it explores more mature themes.
Also, don’t read this if you like dogs.