S.T.A.G.S. Review

Monday, 30 October 2017

By: M.A. Bennett
Rating: 5/5
Source: Amazon

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.

To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin' shootin' fishin' - an invitation 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.

Greer joins the other chosen students at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, and soon realises that they are at the mercy of their capricious host. Over the next three days, as the three bloodsports - hunting, shooting and fishing - become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying reality that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school...

Since YALC I have been seeing this book regularly on my Twitter timeline. So I picked it up in an amazon haul and just finished reading it yesterday as I'm posting this.

S.T.A.G.S. follows Greer MacDonald, a girl who earned a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school where she doesn't fit in despite her intelligence. The pupils of St Aidan The Great (S.T.A.G.S.) aren't just intelligent, they're rich, privileged and some of them are actual royalty. Greer, along with fellow outcasts Shafeen and Nel are swept away from school with the most elite of its students, the Medievals who school prefects, to take part in a weekend of huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’, but there’s more than stags, pheasants and trout on the agenda.

This is a really exciting story about the price of privilege, and what being different might cost you. Henry de Warlencourt and his Medieval friends are charming, polite and complete psychopaths. 

We learn in opening paragraph from the book that Henry does something bad and it costs him his life, following this revelation Greer calls herself a murderer. Since she is the character we will be following through the story I thought this was quite a risky move, potentially putting a barrier between us and Greer and making it harder to empathise with her. I found it didn't last long though, the more we learnt about the Medievals and Henry, the more I trusted Greer as the narrator. 

Something I really loved about her narration was her narration of the narrative itself. It gave her a very poignant sense of humour, sarcastic and relatable when you’re considered the oddball in a school of oddballs. 

When talking to Charlotte, I noticed a lot of what Charlotte said was in italics, it was more than the usual accepted amount. No sooner had the thought popped into my head, Greer was commenting on it and the way Charlotte was enthusiastic about everything, like she was reading my mind. It's the little things that make brilliant writing. 

Throughout the story I couldn’t help but fall for Henry’s charms an the sort of life he leads, him on horseback, passing his cost off, teaching Greer how to shoot a stag, it’s all so cliche, but the boy knew exactly what he was doing, and that only makes him more evil and the story more exciting.

Shafeen's character is probably the most interesting. He's everything that the Medieval's love, other than the fact that he isn't white. For a time he's almost dislikable because of how much he knows about the privilege lifestyle but his protectiveness towards Nel, who I also warmed to later in the book, and Greer, he quickly became a favourite. 

So I highly recommend this book, not only for the storyline but for the characters and the twists that I didn't see coming at all. I promise you that the last forty or so pages are phenomenal, even if the rest of the book isn't for you -that ending will be.

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