Wednesday 11 October 2017

Clare Reviews: S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett

S.T.A.G.STitle: S.T.A.G.S
Author: M.A. Bennett
Format: E-Arc
Source: Received via Netgalley
Pages: 290
Star Rating: 2/5
Blurb: 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...  

Have you ever just been so, SO excited for a book and then it really let you down? That was this book for me. A group of teenagers getting hunted in the woods sounded amazing. To read about anyway. But the execution of the idea was kind of... bland.

The characters had a lot of potential, they were diverse and flawed and selfish which was everything I was hoping for. Unfortunately, so much of their personality was revealed in the first few chapters. Having the narrator telling the story from the future looking back was an intriguing idea but it left me without the tension of wondering whether certain characters were who they seemed. They weren't. And we are told that so often that nothing they do holds any suspense.

Likewise much of the plot is revealed early on. On the very first page the main character talks about the death of a character. On the first page. And whilst she doesn't give all the details by any stretch - she gives enough that you can infer most of the rest. So I spent a lot of my time reading this just... waiting for that to happen. In some books knowing the ending from the start might not be so off-putting. But S.T.A.G.S needed that level of tension. It needed for me to be on the edge of my seat wondering who would make it out alive. Instead everything felt very inevitable.

In addition to this I had a lot of problems understanding the feasibility of the whole situation. Sure, rich people can and do sometimes get away with things. But this level of torture and murder would not go unnoticed. It's all very well saying they always choose victims from poor or "common" families who can't speak up - but that doesn't hold as true in a modern society. Especially with social media and just the media in general who would leap on this story if just one victim or victims family were to spill. Which I think they would. I know fiction doesn't have to be believable. But I like thrillers to be at least a little believable - that's what makes them so, so thrilling.

The narrator did have a very strong voice and the writing style was descriptive enough that I often felt like I was there with the characters. I would be intrigued to see what this author writes next and would definitely give it a try, although I will go in with lowered expectations this time. Perhaps if you go into the story expecting a psychological study of the teenagers in question - you would enjoy this. But if, like me, you expected action and excitement and a little bit of horror, then you'll be disappointed.

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