Hello humans! I know that STAGS has been out for a while, but I’ve only just managed to get round to reading it. I was intrigued by the cover pretty much every time I went into a bookshop, I just couldn’t quite work up enough of a reason to buy a copy since this isn’t really my normal genre, so when I had the chance to read a copy through NetGalley I thought that it would be the ideal time to give this one a go.
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…
Let’s not be under the misapprehension that this will be one of those fun private school books where the heroine convinces the school bullies to be nice and all is rosy and jolly. As you’ll be able to tell from the summary, this book is a fair bit darker than that. However, I think the core themes of elitism and dislike of ‘the other’ are important things to be discussing, particularly in the current political climate.
What I was worried about, when I started reading, was that it was going to take far too long for the characters to catch on to what was happening. It’s that classic horror movie ‘don’t go into the basement’ problem. I find it very difficult to forgive characters who put themselves into situations that are clearly dangerous. There is an element of that right at the start of the story, but once the plot starts moving they quickly start to work out what is happening and they get infinitely less annoying as a result. There are a few bits of motivation that make slightly less sense than I would perhaps like them to, some motivations that remain either unclear or a little bit…silly. For the most part, I did like the characters in this story. I thought that Greer was well written (though she doesn’t have a hugely distinctive character beyond her love of old films) and that the surrounding characters, whether the posh private school elites or the friends that Greer makes, are also interesting to read about.
Without spoiling anything, I think it was the ending that let this one down for me. I would say it is like the ending of Cabin in the Woods where everything stops being creepy and starts feeling like a cheesy horror film from 1992. It bothered me because before the plot reveal everything felt extreme but believable, whereas this took the idea just a shade too far for my liking?
I am glad that I finally got to read this, it’s a compelling book, it has some very exciting moments and I enjoyed the underlying themes. I would say it’s maybe one to request at your local library as I’m not sure it has a lot of re-readability.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Have you read STAGS? Let me know in the comments below what you think!