Synopsis from Goodreads:
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…
I received an e-arc from Hot Key Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
S.T.A.G.S. is the gipping YA debut from M.A. Bennett, one that will have you hooked from the start. The story follows Greer, who has just transferred to S.T.A.G.S. from a state school after receiving a scholarship. Struggling to settle and fit in Greer is surprised to receive an invitation to spend half-term weekend at the manor of the popular and extremely wealthy Henry de Warlencourt and the rest of the Medievals for huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ along with Nel and Shafeen. The Medievals are the schools prefects, who declare all modern technology to be “savage”. As the weekend progresses, Greer begins to realise things aren’t what they seem and in turn uncovers a cult dating back to the schools founding, where the misfits become the hunted.
S.T.A.G.S. is told from Greer’s perspective as she tells the nightmarish story of huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ weekend. Usually I prefer multiple perspectives, I like to know all sides of a story. In this case I found the first person narrative compelling, adding emphasis to the suspense and intrigue. You have to place your trust solely in the narrator, and, believe they are telling the truth. I’m not saying Greer is lying, you have to remember narrators are not always a reliable source. Exploring it from a first person narrator’s perspective is an interesting concept and one I think really worked, for me anyway.
The pacing and plot development is brilliantly executed and will have you on the edge of your seat, desperate to find out what happens next until the very last page, I couldn’t put it down once I’d started. I really enjoyed the character development, particularly with Henry. It was interesting to read about a teenager who is so heavily influenced by a cult, dislikes modern life and technology, preferring to cling to the old ways despite it’s futility. There’s a brilliant twist at the end, I won’t spoil it but trust me, It’s a good one!
I know I say this a lot about books, but I love the cover! It’s so distinctive and striking, it gives you an idea of what’s inside without spoiling the plot. I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s definitely in my top ten 2017 reads and I’ll definitely be buying a finished copy when it’s out.
Published by: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 10th August 2017