A little while ago the lovely Emma from Never Judge A Book By Its Cover and I launched Let’s Talk YA. You can check out all of the books I’ve previously recommended, all of which are incredible UKYA books that I think need to be shouted about more.
Today, I’m discussing the heart-stopping S.T.A.G.S and D.O.G.S by M.A. Bennett, which are the first two books in the S.T.A.G.S series. I will only be including the synopsis for S.T.A.G.S as I don’t want to give away any spoilers!
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…
Why I Love It:
From the opening pages of S.T.A.G.S, I was utterly hooked. Bennett drew me in straight away and since then, has never let me go.
This is a darkly entrancing and thrilling examination of privilege, corruption and the insidious hierarchies of society, all wrapped up in a boarding school mystery that keeps you reading. Although I’m an avid mystery reader, this series still manages to constantly catch me by surprise.
The ominous atmosphere Bennett creates straight away leaves such an uneasy feeling over the initial school politics and the inner conspiracy theorist in me was going wild with several theories about what was going to happen. I love the main trio of characters, who get so much development over the books. None of Bennett’s characters are really two-dimensional, despite initial appearances. That’s something that I really loved; how Bennett managed to fool me constantly and subvert so many tropes.
On a writing note, the feel of the series is very cinematic, with rich descriptions and plenty of razor-sharp dialogue. I could easily see this as an addictive Netflix series and it helps that Greer often makes little film references. As a huge film nerd, this made me connect with her even more.
The endings of both books left me open-mouthed and desperately needing more, so I know that I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for this series. Bennett has crafted a brilliant, thought-provoking series that I know I will be continuing.
Have you read S.T.A.G.S and D.O.G.S? What did you think?
As always, please check out Emma’s blog for her recommendation and we will be talking on Twitter, so please get involved and use the hashtag #LetsTalkYA.