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S.T.A.G.S. by M A Bennett - Review

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Where did I get it? I read the first chapter a few weeks ago in the Maximum Pop samplers and immediately ordered the book for myself. I was so intrigued so I knew I had to pick it up soon. 

What's it about? Greer is in her first year of the sixth form, known as Six One, at an exclusive school called St Aidan the Great School (hence the title of the book). She has won a scholarship to get there and feels like she doesn't fit in. For her first half term, no one speaks to her and she's quite lonely.

Then she's invited to spend the first weekend of October half term with Henry de Warlencourt and his friends. Henry and his five friends, Cookson, Piers, Charlotte, Esme, and Lara, are prefects known as 'Medievals' who rule the school. Everyone wants to be one of them and in with their crowd, so everyone at the school follows their whims and trends to try to get in with them. 

Greer is invited to spend the weekend 'huntin', shootin', and fishin''. She isn't certain about it, but her rooommate encourages her to go. Greer is driven across from Northumberland to Henry's house, Longcross. With her and the Medievals are two others who don't fit in - Chanel, who's dad invented a smartphone and who is therefore considered 'new money', and Shafeen, who is as rich as the Medievals but who will never fit in because he is Indian. The weekend begins with dinner, as the 9 teenagers get themselves organised for the weekend. 

I thought it was pretty obvious where this book was going to go, and I thought the ending was quite obvious too, but I appreciate that I'm an adult reading a book meant for teenagers. This isn't to say that I thought the book was bad - far from it! I thought there were plenty of twists and turns that kept me intrigued. There's also a few genuinely terrifying parts. The whole book has a really sticky and claustrophobic feel to it that really ups the ante. I liked the closed setting of the creepy old house in the middle of the countryside and felt it was perfect for a book like this.

I liked Chanel and Shafeen and was happy to know more about thier families and situations. In contrast, I felt like Greer was a bit on an unknown quantity. There is some stuff about her own family but not enough for my liking; it felt a bit like she existed in a vacuum. The Medievals are given just enough background to make them sinister. 

I think there is going to be a sequel - the ending certainly lends itself to one. I really enjoyed the book and would definitely buy the next one if it happens!

What age range is it for? 14+, probably. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Shafeen. It's an integral part of why he doesn't fit in to the school. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, there's a lot of alcohol though 

Is there any talk of death? Yes and it is quite gruesome in parts so be careful 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? As above, I'd like more insight into Greer's life before she was at STAGS. I felt like things were wrapped up a bit too quickly at the end, it felt a bit rushed. It does feel very much like there'll be a sequel and that did mean some things for left open. I did also feel like some of the anti-technology sentiments in the book were a bit overdone. Oh, also, from a writing point of view I kept getting confused between Chanel and Charlotte, their names were too similar for me. I'd have called Charlotte something else! Overall though I've very few criticisms as I really liked it. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. 

What other books is it like? I really can't think of anything similar!

How many stars? Five out of five - not perfect but really excellent 


Where is the book going now? I think my friend Janet might appreciate a borrow of it! 

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