Monday, January 15, 2018

ARC Review: S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett

S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett
By M.A. Bennett
Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: YALLFest
Publication Date: January 30, 2018

To Sum It Up: Greer MacDonald has become the new scholarship student at a highly prestigious boarding school. However, the excitement of her new school quickly wears off as Greer is treated like an outsider by most of her wealthy classmates. When Greer is invited to Henry de Warlencourt’s estate for the weekend, she eagerly accepts, excited by the prospect of forming connections with her peers. But the weekend takes a turn for the sinister, and Greer must face some shocking truths.

Melissa's Review: The premise of this story was fascinating to me. I mean, who doesn’t love stories about elite boarding schools with a dark twist?! M.A. Bennett does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the setting of her story by providing interesting, but not an excessive amount of detail. I thought the most intriguing part of the book was Bennett’s ability to set such a gripping and continuous pace. I read this book in only two sittings!

I felt as though the characters were not fully developed, and they seemed somewhat one-dimensional. Additionally, the relationships between characters were weak and not quite believable. This lack of development made the characters unrelatable and the reader unsympathetic to their plights. While there certainly was an interesting ideology behind the motives of the antagonists, there was a serious lack of relatability, making it hard for the reader to suspend their disbelief.

The ending was, unfortunately, very dissatisfying. There seemed to be a forced sense of the story coming full circle. It was boring in its predictability. I think if the book had ended a chapter or two sooner, the ending would have been more fitting for the rest of the story.

All in All: S.T.A.G.S. was certainly a quick read, and Bennett has a talent for pace within her writing. The downfall of this book was ultimately a lack of character development. It was enjoyable all the same.

Lee's Review: Given my ongoing struggle with reading for any extended length of time, it’s pretty amazing that I finished S.T.A.G.S. in a single weekend. That is entirely due to the book’s absolutely brilliant pacing; once I began reading, I could. Not. Stop. S.T.A.G.S. actually brought me back to my Twilight days, when I spent every available minute buried in the book because I needed to know what happened next.

It quickly becomes clear that there’s a “The Most Dangerous Game” type element going on here, but it’s not the “what” that spurs you on reading. It’s the “how” and the “why.” While both are eventually revealed, the motivation behind the actions of the Medievals, a clique of students at St. Aidan the Great School (the titular S.T.A.G.S.), fell short for me. I expected something more complex than what the book offers, and this was quite disappointing considering how solid the build-up was.

I still would have given S.T.A.G.S. at least three stars if the ending hadn’t also fallen flat. It seemed both rushed and anti-climactic, and it even annoyed me a bit because the previous three-quarters of the book had been so compulsively readable. Although the insight into the mindset of the Medievals’ leader, Henry de Warlencourt, wasn’t wholly satisfying, I would’ve been fine with the story ending there instead of trying to set up a possible sequel.

I also wasn’t really impressed with the main character, Greer. She’s named after actress Greer Garson and is a film buff, and she drops a lot of film references, so much so that it feels heavy-handed sometimes. What bothered me most about Greer, though, was how oblivious she could be to what was really going on around her. Overall, Greer’s character development never quite took off, and none of the secondary characters, particularly all of the Medievals except Henry, was especially memorable.

S.T.A.G.S. was an odd read of sorts for me because I tore through it despite having a few big issues with it. If the book had ended as strongly as it started, this would have been a fantastic read.

All in All: S.T.A.G.S. boasts some impressive pacing, but unfortunately, the book loses the momentum it builds up so brilliantly in the beginning and ends without fully delivering on what drives some of the characters to act as they do.


  1. Great reviews! I've been kind of curious about this book; I don't think I'll read it, though, because it gives me pretty strong Secret History/Donna Tartt vibes. I loved The Secret History so much, I can't imagine this would end up being anything but a relative disappointment.

    Eleanor | On the Other Side of Reality

    1. Hmm. I'm super curious about The Secret History now. I'm gonna have to check it out! :)

  2. I'm sorry both of you had issues with the ending...
    Great reviews
    I'm having a giveaway just so you know

    Ruty @Reading…Dreaming

    1. Yeah, it's really too bad when an ending negatively impacts the whole book experience. :/


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