AUTHOR: M.A. Bennett
RELEASED: August 10, 2017
PUBLISHER: Hot Key Books
GENRE: YA Mystery
GOODREADS RATING: 3.56
TRIGGERS: Animal death
Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.
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…
Sometimes I feel like reading a book that isn’t in any of my regular genres, which is exactly what happened when I picked up this one. I do like the occasional thriller or mystery novel, so when I started craving a book like that.. My eyes immediately wandered to S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett. This might also have something to do with how I bought The Island by the same author at YALC and still haven’t read that one.. Oops.
Definitely one of the big positives concerning this novel: the way it pulled me in! I was so intrigued, right from the start, because our main character immediately confesses she’s to blame for a murder. If that doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what would! From there on, Greer tells us what happened that led to said murder. The thing is: Even though you know who got murdered, you still want to find out what exactly happened and that’s what kept me going.
Other than that, I love the division between Savages and Medievals. It’s completely backwards to the world we know today, where the “bigger people” have all the technology and the “little people” are frowned upon for not keeping up with it. This is very broadly put, but you know what I mean! In S.T.A.G.S, the elite actually rejects technology in most ways and I thought it added so much to this story. Not to mention how it highlights the medieval setting and customs even more. I’m not a fan of historical fiction, but this.. This I really, really liked!
In addition to that, Greer’s upbringing as the daughter of a cameraman definitely added a unique vibe as well. Comparing situations, actions and small events to things she saw in movies, she keeps reminding us that the world we’re in isn’t set in the past, but in the present. It was a unique and intriguing way of reminding us of that little fact! Because, I admit, I sometimes forgot, haha.
When you’re at STAGS, there’s only one thing worse than no money, and that’s the wrong kind of money.
Downside of this novel, to me, was the perspective. The story’s told in first person, by Greer who’s looking back at what happened. You could say that’s fine – and, in a way it was – but I felt weirdly detached from her character and that made it hard for me to actually lose myself in her character. It’s obviously told after everything happened already and it showed. Maybe I would’ve liked it better if it had been told as it was happening? I don’t know.
One thing that did get on my nerves quite.. often.. is how Greet talks about liking this guy, that guy in a very spontaneous way. I actually got whiplash with all her mind-changing when it came to the “love” interests in play. This is, to me, one of those stories where the romantic aspect could’ve disappeared completely and I wouldn’t have cared one bit. I might’ve even liked it better that way!
And, lastly.. I read some reviews mentioning the end of this novel and going all “I didn’t see that twist coming at all!”. Honestly.. How did you not? I saw it coming a mile off and thought it way too predictable! Could’ve been me and having the right gut feeling for once, though.. But.. Yeah, it didn’t really feel all that “wow” to me.
I have to say this novel was quite refreshing in terms of setting and the whole idea behind the school politics, but.. it could’ve been better too. I enjoyed reading it, but I know.. with some changes.. I could’ve really loved it!
How do you feel about more historical settings in present-day set novels?
What are some other YA mysteries you’d definitely recommend?
[I want moooore!]