S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett (2018)
YA Fiction | Contemporary | Thriller
“One deadly weekend.
At St. Aidan the Great School, or S.T.A.G.S., new things–and new people–are to be avoided. Unfortunately, Greer MacDonald, token scholarship student, is very much a new person. She has just transferred to S.T.A.G.S., and finds herself ignored at best and mocked at worst by the school’s most admired circle of friends, the Medievals.
So imagine Greer’s surprise when this very group invites her to an exclusive weekend retreat at the private estate of the parents of their unofficial leader, Henry de Warlencourt. It’s billed as a weekend of “huntin’ shootin’ fishin’,” and rumor has it that the invitee who most impresses the group will be given the privilege of becoming a Medieval themselves.
As the weekend begins to take shape, however, it becomes apparent that beyond the luxurious trappings–the fancy clothes the maid lays out on Greer’s bed, the elaborate multicourse dinners held in the Great Hall–there are predators lurking, and they’re out for blood. . . .”
Expected Publication Date: January 30, 2018
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!
MY HEAD. WHY???
Bennett, I have a few strong words for you. And I’d also like to applaud because holy cannoli! Yeah, if you even remotely enjoy reading thrillers then you’ve got to get your hands on a copy of S.T.A.G.S.
This story is a contemporary twist on Richard Connell’s famous short story “The Most Dangerous Game” set with English private school teens and a twisted ending that will have you tearing your hair out, flopping your mouth like a gasping fish, and wincing as a wrench of both frustration and a bit of admiration twist your gut.
We’re presented with a rather familiar “new girl at a new school” type of scenario, and not only that but she’s a scholarship kid entering a school neck deep in money, tradition, and order. Content to be invisible, Greer survives to midterm before finding herself invited to a highly exclusive weekend treat. Three lucky students are invited by the senior elite to weekend at a luxurious estate to go huntin’, shootin’, and fishin’. Greer is absolutely surprised by her unexpected invitation but can’t imagine turning it down. It doesn’t take long however to realize that what the three guests have in common is that none of them belong.
The charming Henry de Warlencourt is there to fix that. Fear not. There’s nothing some good country air and proud traditional blood sports can’t help.
Expertly crafting moments of predictability to lull the senses, Bennett jolts the adrenaline with impending doom, incredulous sport, and an order that stands proud as stone. My heart surely pounded in particular moments as I read. And then, the real killer is the ending. Sure the book concludes its thrilling game of hunter and deer, but it doesn’t stop there. And it is the final chapter that truly chills the blood and will make you absolutely want to chuck this book (or in my case my Kindle) against a wall and yell some very strong words.
The narrator is a well-written voice that has a natural rhythm and is perfect to bridge the gap between reader and STAGS. She tells us her tale, and I, at least, was riveted. In fact there are certain things she makes quite clear from the very start such as calling herself a murderer. But instead of ruining the surprise it makes you read faster, driven by curiosity to know her story. You can’t help but wonder Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?? I ended up reading this entire book in one sitting (thank goodness for an unexpected snowfall to keep me home!).
If you pay close attention you can probably pick up some of the clues, symbols, hints, etc. and connect the dots. If you try (like with any thriller or mystery type story) you can likely guess the plot. But try not to, okay? If you can let yourself fall into the story and let go of your analytical mind then it’s actually not too hard to get caught in the powerful and alluring current of the plot, too busy being cast about in the narrator’s emotions and spinning thoughts to pay attention to your own (although I won’t deny sometimes my mind couldn’t stop itself from screaming at her and calling her a blind fool haha).
A binge-read might be the best way to experience this book just so you get that full build up of emotion and adrenaline. I’m not saying it’s wholly unpredictable, because when you read your brain has much more time to pay attention and figure things out. But I will say that if you can let go a bit then you might find this to be a really engaging and thrilling read.
I can’t write too much about the actual story because I honest to goodness don’t want to spoil a single thing for you.
Fantastic. That’s all I have to say really. This book was fantastic. I knew much of what was going to happen but I still loved it.
A thriller that will freeze the blood in your veins against a fiercely pounding heart, S.T.A.G.S. whets your appetite before filleting your mind against its cleverly spun trap of prose and guts you with the twist of its conclusion. This is a story that will stick with you for time to come.
Purchase here: S.T.A.G.S.
Meet M.A. Bennett!
M. A. Bennett is half Venetian and was born in Manchester, England, and raised in the Yorkshire Dales. She is a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialized in the study of Shakespeare’s plays as a historical source. After university she studied art and has since worked as an illustrator, an actress, and a film reviewer. She also designed tour visuals for rock bands, including U2 and the Rolling Stones. She was married on the Grand Canal in Venice and lives in north London with her husband, son, and daughter.