Book Review: S.T.A.G.S – M. A. Bennett

Book Review: S.T.A.G.S – M. A. Bennett

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-09-29T221550.008Series: S.T.A.G.S #1
Release Date: August 10th 2017
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 303
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

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…

Review

Copy of book cover (73)This was such a fun and enjoyable read. I read it over the course of two days, and the mystery kept me wanting more the whole way through. S.T.A.G.S is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read, and takes a common theme – being an outsider – and turns it into a whole new ballgame.

I really loved the characters in this book. Greer’s Dad is a nature film maker, so the two watch a lot of movies, and I really liked the way she continually referenced films in order to explain her point. I also really liked Nel and Shafeen, Greer’s only real companions. I also found it really interesting the way the Medievals are like carbon copies of each other, M.A. Bennett did a fantastic job of bringing out everyone’s high school nightmare with this group.

The setting for S.T.A.G.S is a really beautiful one, and one that definitely came alive in the story. It certainly is huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ village, with lots of mountains and lakes. The setting in the heart of the Lake District really is a fantastic backdrop for this story.

S.T.A.G.S is certainly a twisty and turn-y thriller. As Greer and her friends attempt to figure out what on earth is going on, there are several things you’ll totally see coming, but also more than a few that you’ll be completely a taken back by (I know I was). I love a story that can keep me guessing, and this exciting YA mystery, definitely ticks that box. S.T.A.G.S would also make one hell of a movie/television series, so I’m definitely going to be keeping my fingers crossed for that. If you’re looking for a quick and entertaining mystery, S.T.A.G.S is a must read for sure.
4 stars

Book Review: The Island – M.A. Bennett

Book Review: The Island – M.A. Bennett

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Release Date: 25th July 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was sent a copy of this book through ReadersFirst

Synopsis

Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad – however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others . . .

When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School – forever – if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it for the ultimate prize. But this particular trip will require a very special sort of endurance. The saying goes ‘No man is an island’ – but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? When oppressive heat, hunger and thirst start to bite, everyone’s true colours will be revealed. Let the battle commence . . .

Review

I really enjoyed M.A. Bennett’s S.T.A.G.S, a story about an elite boarding school and a group with a penchant for blood sports. After reading the synopsis for The Island I was really looking forward to diving in but it turned out to be a completely different story to what I thought it was going to be.

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The story follows Link, a young school boy who is treated horribly by everyone at his school. He is bullied, victimised and made to feel inferior because he prefers books to sports. When he is forced to attend a ‘Preparation for Life’ summer camp, his plane crash lands, leaving Link and all his classmates stranded on a desert island. This time the roles are reversed as Link has the knowledge to survive on this small strip of land.

The story felt very Lord of the Flies and there were parts of it that I really enjoyed. It was paced well and I found the story really interesting. The main thing for me was that the characters were so unlikeable. Link was a horrible protagonist, the other kids on the island were typical stereotypes of people – the athlete bully who isn’t very smart, the side kick best friend who is hiding a secret and turns it on everyone else because he is scared he will also be bullied, the emo girl who doesn’t care and the beautiful girl who is only concerned with herself. I hoped that on the island they would become more than their stereotypes but that didn’t really feel like the case.

The story is well written and it was easy to dive in and out of. There are some plot twists along the way, though I guessed quite early on what was going to happen. There is also a last chapter which occurs many years after the events on the island. This chapter felt so unrealistic and so unlike the rest of the book in tone. It definitely felt like a departure from the power struggle and story of revenge. While this book wasn’t my favourite I did enjoy the parts on the island and the way they related music to how you view a person. If you’re a fan of adventure stories or light thrillers, this might be just the book you’re looking for.