When this popped up on my kindle I looked at the weird title and thought: “did I MEAN to request this?” Check out my review of STAGS below.
To be published on January 30, 2018 by Penguin Teen
Source: eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis (adapted from Goodreads): Greer, a scholarship girl at the prestigious St Aidan the Great School (known as STAGS), soon realizes that the school is full of snobs and spoilt rich brats. She’s immediately ignored by her classmates. The driving force behind the school is a group of prefects known as the Medievals, whose leader, Henry de Warlencourt, Greer finds both strangely intriguing as well as attractive. The Medievals are all good-looking, clever and everyone wants to be among their circle of friends. Greer is therefore surprised when she receives an invitation from Henry to spend a long weekend with him and his friends at his family house in the Lake District, especially when she learns that two other “outsiders” have also been invited: Shafeen and Chanel. As the weekend unfolds, Greer comes to the chilling realization that she and two other “losers” were invited only because they were chosen to play a dangerous game.
My review of STAGS:
First off, I think the title and cover of this book aren’t doing it many favors. There are too many periods in this title and my fingers got tired typing them above. Since “STAGS” is also used within the story and the author doesn’t use the periods there, I’m abandoning them. Whee!
Next up, I’m not sure what you think when you read “STAGS” with or without periods (please tell me in comments) but with no other context I think of a stag party, aka a bunch of guys behaving badly at some kind of wild weekend.
That’s half-accurate, but not in the way you might think. Yes, this book is about bad behavior on a weekend, but (thankfully) not drunken hijinks with strippers.
STAGS is about a girl who’s an outsider at an exclusive British boarding school, a school with a name so convoluted that it’s abbreviated to S.T.A.G.S. (Mounted deer heads also play a role in the story. And as “ugh” as deer heads are, I think this cover could have used one to steer me away from bachelor party thoughts. Just saying.)
In any case, Greer is the classic outsider narrator who, in the book’s very first sentence, tells the reader that she “might be a murderer.”
Okay then! That was an attention-getting opener and I approve! I’m a fan of unreliable narrators. But as the story went on, Greer struck me as quite reliable, and as a result (and because I thought the book telegraphed early on pretty much everything that was going to happen) this isn’t a book that is very successful at building suspense.
There were things I liked about STAGS, so let’s talk about those next. If you’re the kind of person who loves movies and books set in British country houses, the kind of person who likes watching the Downton Abbey crowd ride out on a fox hunt or head out to shoot some grouse and then dress for dinner, you’ll enjoy the overall atmosphere of the book. As did I.
However, my main problem with the book is that (as mentioned above) after that kicker of an opening line there were not many surprises to be had. Greer tells you in the first few pages exactly what will happen in the last few pages.
In addition, I have to say that, British house party trappings aside, this book felt very very much like a retelling of Mean Girls.
Watch my STAGS vs. Mean Girls video on my (new!) Youtube channel. Thanks to the two people who have subscribed. You’re the best!
Points for the British atmosphere. Recommend to serious Anglophiles and those who appreciate a very, very low level of tension in their suspense books.