S.T.A.G.S

STAGS


Title: S.T.A.G.S

Author: M.A. Bennett

Series: N/A

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: August 10th 2017

Rating:

Four Stars

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

A twisting thriller for fans of Looking for Alaska and The Hunger Games

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“I think I might be a murderer.”

As a scholarship student at S.T.A.G.S, an exclusive boarding school for the rich and privileged, Greer doesn’t fit in. She doesn’t make any friends either so when an invitation is posted under her door, an invitation from the most popular boy in school offering to whisk her away for a weekend of huntin’, shootin’, and fishin’ of course Greer accepts. She daydreams of the perfect weekend where, once she returns to S.T.A.G.S, she has a place among the Medievals, the students who rule over the school.

However once they arrive at Longcross Hall things take a turn for the sinister. Greer wasn’t the only misfit invited away that weekend. Chanel and Shafeen also received an invitation.

Greer doesn’t know Shafeen or Chanel well, though she has seen their history with the Medievals. Shafeen makes no secret of his dislike for Henry or the other Medievals, going toe to toe with them, showing them up anyway he can. Chanel tries to fit in but she comes from new money, her attempts are seen as her trying too hard and are scorned by the other students.

“I now think that if I’d had more friends – or any friends – in that first half-term, I never would have accepted the invitation. Maybe I accepted it because I was lonely. Or maybe, if I’m being honest, I accepted it because it came from the best-looking boy in the school.”

With no adults, other than the servants who bow to Henry’s every request and whim, Greer, Chanel and Shafeen are at the mercy of Henry and the other Medievals. They soon start to realise that the perfect weekend they all daydreamed of is turning into a nightmare, and that it isn’t just the stags, the pheasants, and the fish that are being hunted, shot and fished at Longcross Hall.

It’s very rare that I pick up thriller books; my first genre of choice is always fantasy, occasionally I’ll branch out into sci-fi or contemporary, and very rarely I’ll pick up a historical fiction novel. However there was something about S.T.A.G.S that caught my eye. Greer MacDonald is a murderer. That’s the first thing we learn about her character and as the story unfolds, as she tells us her version of events, and we discover what happened that one weekend she was at Longcross Hall I found myself quickly hooked.

…The Characters

“I might have been academically smart, but I was monumentally stupid not to realise sooner what was going on. It’s not as if I wasn’t warned.”

Greer is by no means a perfect character, but for me her flaws on made me like her more. The whole story is told as if Greer herself is speaking to the reader. It allowed us into her head and her thoughts as the weekend unfolded, as she looked back at what happened to them all and told us her side of the story. Although Greer is an outsider at S.T.A.G.S she secretly wants to fit in, to be popular and looked up to by the other students the way the Medievals are, and she allows her head to be turned by Henry even when she should know better.

It’s the flaws and the mistakes she made that made Greer more real. She wanted the same thing most teenage girls do, to be accepted. She wanted the fairytale high school experience with the perfect boyfriend and a lot of the theories she shared with Chanel and Shafeen whispered in the dark seemed so outrageous in the light of day she just couldn’t believe they were true.

“Back then I still thought Henry the best of them, before I realised he was the worst.”

The Medievals are the best of the best at S.T.A.G.S. They have all the power and essentially rule the school in a way the teachers don’t. They are royalty, polished and poised, and even when she should doubt them Greer can’t help but be taken in by them. She sees the cruelty in their actions but Henry, their leader, always seemed above that. He always had an answer, an explanation, and excuse to put Greer’s mind at ease.

“Carphone Chanel. What was she doing here?
Then I got the second shock of the night. The dark guy who was talking to Piers and Cookson turned around, and it was Shafeen.”

Alongside Greer Shafeen and Chanel at the other outcasts at Longcross Hall, and like Greer they each have their own reasons for accepting Henry’s invite. “Carphone Chanel” as the Medievals have dubbed her wants to fit in with the privileged students however underneath the S.T.A.G.S persona Chanel is smart and resourceful. Shafeen, branded the “Punjabi Playboy” by the Medievals, has always been a  mystery to Greer, as is his acceptance of the invitation when he has never hidden his dislike of the Medievals. Shafeen was probably my favourite character in the book; he comes from the same world the Medievals do, old money, but he’s not allowed himself to become anything like them.


I had mixed feelings about this book; as much as I enjoyed the way the story was told in it did take me a while to wrap my head around the writing, and as much as I enjoyed how the author built up the tension it did make for a slow-paced read. What made me rate S.T.A.G.S four stars instead of three was the ending; it came out of nowhere and reminded me why, when I decide to pick them up that is, I love thrillers so much.

What did you think of S.T.A.G.S? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

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24 thoughts on “S.T.A.G.S

  1. I actually went to boarding school for most of my childhood and adolescent years (grade 3-12). I often wonder if I would put my own kids in boarding school too. I had a good experience, but not every kid in my school did, so I can understand that can be difficult for some. I just wrote a post about my experience in boarding school so that part jumped out at me 😀 loved your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s interesting. I’ve never known anyone who’s gone to boarding school so the closest I’ve come is the characters in books. I’m glad you had a good experience but you’re right not everyone does.
      Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. 🙂

      Like

  2. I don’t tend to pick up many thrillers, but I have to admit I’m kind of tempted to check this one out thanks to your review! 🙂 Surprise and thrilling endings are always very entertaining to read ahah, and I love the sound of these flawed characters as well! Lovely review. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t pick up many thrillers either but there was something about this one that grabbed me, and by the end I was glad I gave it a chance. Hopefully if you do as well you’ll really like this book too Analee. 🙂
      The ending was definitely a surprise, and the characters definitely flawed as well. 😀
      Thanks Analee! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Agree with most of your points! I rated S.T.A.G.S. very similarly myself (3.5/5, rounded to 4) so I definitely get where you’re coming from. Loved, loved loved the wicked ending, and have to say that the friendship triangle between Greer, Chanel and Shafeen is really fun in a squad goals kind of way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s good to hear, and yeah from the reviews I’ve seen to date that seems to be the average rating at the moment.
      The ending made this book for me, and yes I loved the friendship that developed between Greer, Chanel and Shafeen. It made then a team again the medievals! 😀

      Like

  4. Great review, Beth! I don’t usually pick up thrillers either, as they are not my favorite genre, yet I find myself a little drawn to this one as well. I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much and that the ending gave you this little thrill 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Marie! 🙂 There are always a few thrillers here and there I’m drawn to, and I’ve always loved them so I was glad this was no different. If you end up picking this one up I hope you feel the same.
      Yeah the ending was definitely a thrill ride for me! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds terrifying and absolutely awesome. I don’t think I’ve come across a plot such as this one and it does remind me a bit of The Hunger Games, but even more twisted. There have been some instances of hunter/prey scenes playing out in various shows/books, but never one where it’s the focal point of the story, I don’t think.
    Wonderful review, Beth! I’m glad the ending sealed the deal for you – it’s always great when that happens 🙂 I might pick this one up sometime, even if I’m not a thriller fan myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think terrifying and awesome is a good way to describe this book (terrifyingly awesome maybe?) I didn’t notice any parallels between S.T.A.G.S and The Hunger Games but then again until you mentioned it just now I didn’t think of that myself.
      Thanks so much Sophie, the ending was brilliant. There was part of me that could see it coming but my heart was in my throat as the author confirmed that my theory was correct, kind of intense. Oh that’s good to hear, and I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did in that case. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s exactly how I felt. Part of me was like ‘is the author actually going to go there for this ending?’ and when she did I was definitely shocked and surprised, and also a little glad it ended the way it did.
        That’s all right! 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  6. OMG I want to read that! First because of the cover, and then the thriller vibe with the character being a murderer and your words making me feel I could enjoy this one! Fab review! The slow pace, I think I can handle if the characters are good enough, but the writing has me a little worried. Still, it sounds like a nice read to get!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cover was what grabbed me, it’s simple but there’s something about it that just catches your eye isn’t there? It was a good read, I was kind of hooked from the first line.
      Thanks Meggy. I think the characters were good enough, and if you can get past the writing hopefully you’ll enjoy this book as well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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