A YA thriller… I haven’t really seen many of these within the YA book community, so when I received S.T.A.G.S from the publisher to review, I read the blurb and I was very intrigued to see how a YA thriller would be written. There were some of the usual ‘rich people’ tropes that were in the book, but all in all, it was a very enjoyable read.
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…
As I mentioned at the start, S.T.A.G.S has the usual tropes throughout this book: a girl who is considered an outcast in a posh school and the mean, rich kid stereotypes. Not all people who have a lot of money are evil and for once, I would like to read about upper-class people who aren’t mean and don’t care about anyone but themselves. ANYWAY.. What I was saying what that, yes there is the mean, rich kid stereotype, but once you look past that, there is actually a very good storyline here.
The book is fast-paced which I love in a thriller and one of the things that I also loved about this book was that you knew who died at the beginning and you knew you did it, but the whole mystery that surrounds this book is how that death came about and the mystery surrounding an entire weekend. Another thing that I really liked is that there wasn’t an unreliable narrator. In most of the thriller books that I read, the main character is very unreliable due to blackouts/memory loss, but in S.T.A.G.S, the main protagonist, Greer is very reliable as she takes us through the twisted world of her school.
I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and each plot twist left me hankering for more. And the ending! OH.MY.LIFE. THE ENDING! I just remember closing the book and staring at it for a good 10 minutes because I couldn’t believe how Bennett had ended the book (in a good way). Bennett writes the ending so that there is a possibility for a sequel but then writes it in a way that it also makes for an immense cliffhanger and just ruins the reader.
One of the things in the book that was really interesting was the way of thinking of the Medievals. They believe that technology is “savage” and that it destroys our way of thinking. The Medievals are all about learning through books and their definition of recreational activities is huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’. In a way, I agree with the whole ‘technology-is-ruining-society’ because I see my little sister invite her best friend round to the house and all they do is go on their phones for hours upon end, hardly talking to each other. All I see when I sit down with family is my Mom playing Candy Crush, my sister on Snapchat and me and my Dad just looking at each other like “great family time this is”. But then you also have the perks of technology. Without it, I would never be able to write this review and share it with millions of people, without technology, I would never be able to talk to my family in The Netherlands… So yes, I completely understand why the Medievals think that technology is savage. This conversation is also turned into a debate between Henry and Greer and it was interesting to read their debate.
Even though Henry is evil and just the worst person ever, part of me really did have a soft spot for him… Is that crazy and stupid? I think I just really liked his cleverness and how you could uphold a sophisticated conversation with him. I mean, that’s the only thing that I like about the guy, the rest of him is just pure craziness.
Overall, this is a very good read. And it’s an actual thriller book! It’s not a book that is being marketed as a thriller book to gain a bigger audience, it’s actually a thriller book. Which is amazing. I still can’t get over the ending though. It ruined me.
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review