Review: S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett
‘I think I might be a murderer. Although, as I didn’t mean to kill, I suppose it was manslaughter, so technically I would be a ‘manslaughterer’, although I don’t think that’s a word.’
I finished S.T.A.G.S way back towards the end of April, but it’s almost impossible to find the time to review the books which I’m reading at the moment. (Blah blah blah, insert something about juggling a baby and a job.) That’s why it’s taken me so much time to start work on this review. Such a long amount of time, in fact, that I’ve actually dropped my rating from 4 stars down to 3 stars, because I can no longer remember exactly what it was that charmed me so much about S.T.A.G.S in the first place.
Split into three sections – huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ – S.T.A.G.S follows scholarship girl Greer into the exclusive world of the Medievals, a gang of prefects who rule her school. Greer gets invited to a weekend at head Medieval Henry’s house, and she believes they’re giving her a chance to finally fit in, but the truth of the matter is far darker than that. The other two invitees, Chanel and Shafeen, are openly ridiculed and hated by the Medievals, and the only reason that they’re all invited is so that they can do huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ on more than just animals…
The first half of S.T.A.G.S is absolutely brilliant. The pacing, the setting, the characters: it all falls into place, dragging you into the world of the Medievals and making you yearn along with Greer to be a part of their gang. Henry seems like the stereotypical posh player, but you want to believe that he has a soft heart underneath all of the swagger. You want them to be knocked down a peg or too, but you also begin to think that they really might be untouchable.
But then things begin to change. Somewhere between huntin’ and shootin’, my attention began to waver. It might have been because I read the majority of this book in one sitting, but suddenly Greer’s constant film references began feeling tedious rather than quirky. The plot seemed predictable – of course it would, with the approaching murder foreshadowed in the first sentence and taking a painfully long time to arrive – and I couldn’t muster the energy to care anymore.
When I eventually reached the end I think I was more excited about finishing the book than the events which occurred, which is why I rated the book so highly in the first place. Looking back I feel fondly towards the first half of the novel, but something about the shift in pacing and the slow reveal makes it impossible for me to keep such a high rating in place.
I’m going to read M.A. Bennett’s second novel, The Island, because she has an intriguing writing style that lends itself well to thriller writing, but S.T.A.G.S just isn’t the greatest way of exercising that skill. Hopefully Bennett’s second novel will give her a chance to balance things more equally, and a bit less foreshadowing will keep the reader guessing rather than revealing her hand far too early.
Based off of the ending there’s a good chance that S.T.A.G.S will get a sequel, something which I’m actually hoping for. It would be great to revisit these characters and see how Bennett develops the world.
If you’re interested in learning more about S.T.A.G.S, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!