By Author / Illustrator
M. A. Bennett
Suspense & Thrillers
Hot Key Books
Paperback / softback
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. To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin' shootin' fishin' - an invitation 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.
Greer joins the other chosen students at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, and soon realises that they are at the mercy of their capricious host. Over the next three days, as the three blood sports - 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...
Greer MacDonald has won a scholarship to the sixth form of St Aidan The Great School (S.T.A.G.S. to its students), a prestigious and ancient boarding school for the offspring of the British upper classes. It is, quite literally, old school - the oldest school in England! Greer finds herself ostracised and alone, very much a 'Savage' (the outsiders at S.T.A.G.S. - the scholarship students, the foreigners, the new money) in a world of 'Medievals' (the posher than posh old-money landed gentry). Just when she thinks she'll be spending the whole two years alone and friendless, she receives an anonymous but prestigious invitation to spend a weekend at a grand stately home, revelling in the traditional country pursuits of Huntin', Shootin', Fishin'. When she discovers that the invitation is from Henry de Warlencourt - the most popular (and attractive) boy in school, she thinks things are starting to look up. But what - or rather who - are the intended prey? That someone dies is revealed on page one, even though the death doesn't occur until near the end of the book. We also find out who dies - and who is responsible - very early on, so I wouldn't call this book a murder mystery (the only mystery is how and when the death happens). Rather, it is a tense, atmospheric British horror-thriller, with plot twists that keep coming right until the end. It reads like The Wicker Man meets Midsomer Murders with teens! Greer was a likeable and (mostly) relatable protagonist. I did find myself getting a little annoyed at her blindsided determination to fall for The Bad Guy, although Bennett does manage to make this feel quite realistic. The book also had a fantastic atmosphere - the tension, menace and faded glory have stayed with me long after reading. I would recommend this book to older or more mature students, although this is more to do with interest and subject matter than anything explicit or gory. 299 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.
Suggested Reading Age 11+
Greer MacDonald has won a scholarship to the exclusive STAGS but soon realises that the school is run not by the Friars but by the Medievals, a group of six beautiful but deadly sixth formers. With no friends and shunned by even her room mate, Greer makes the mistake of accepting 'The Invitation' to a hunting weekend at the estate of Henry de Warlencourt, the most beautiful boy in the school and leader of the Medievals. It soon becomes apparent that the invited guests are the hunted ..... STAGS is a great book for teens as it covers the usual problems of friendship and school life but with an underlying deadly and thrilling plot twist. It is also littered throughout with film references as this is a game that Greer and her dad play, and set in the luxury of an old estate. The author sets the scene well with descriptions of the school and stately home, especially during the hunting scenes. The story moves along quickly and although I did see the final twist coming, it did not spoil the book in any way. I think there could be a sequel made as the school and its characters have potential, with the last sentence ending with a question mark. Students will love this as it also has a hint of romance without being intrusive for boy readers. Hailed as the new Hunger Games, it reminded me more of The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. A good read. 290 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.
Suggested Reading Age 11+