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A Review: S.T.A.G.S.

For so long, Watership Down stood alone-a singularity. It was my Mordor. It no longer stands alone, but it’s companion does not evoke the same broken-hearted ache, the same repulsion, the same shiver of something like terror. It’s shelf companion, M.A Bennett’s S.T.A.G.S., has earned my derision. It brings out my inner mean girl. It makes me want to use my powers of intellect for evil-raw and pure, but I'll refrain. Watership Down is considered a classic, and will forever garner praise. This is something I grudgingly accept, S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett is no classic. It is a train wreck of a book. If I were to step outside of my emotions, I'd have to admit that it is wholly unworthy of sharing shelf space with Watership Down. This is something i can't do because the memory of being a child betrayed by a book for the very first time is too strong for me to offer any such concession, so together they shall remain on my shelf of hate. At the end of the day, Watership Down is still my Mordor, but S.T.A.G.S. is very likely my Voldemort, or at the very least an impressively ugly orc sent by Sauron to dog my footsteps. I don’t even know where to begin reviewing the actual content of the book, which can only mean one thing-a list, but first a plot description. Plot: Bored and rich teen snobs have a bored and rich teen snobs weekend of hunting, shooting, and fishing. They invite some stupid not popular kids to go with them. Bad stuff happens, obviously. THE GOOD:

  • The cover art is beautiful.

  • In a year overrun by overhyped fantasy, I appreciate a mystery thriller trying to be one of the belles at the YA ball.

  • I literally laughed out loud at some of the prose. It wasn’t supposed to be funny, but it was beyond corny. The lines felt as though they were lifted from poorly written fan fiction.

  • Were it not for book club this would have been my second DNF, did not finish, of the year.


  • The clunky and oddly paced first person past tense and present tense and every other tense narration.

  • The overall story felt odd, old, and off. It didn’t read like YA. It read like . . . I don’t even know. Something bad.

  • Our protagonist. Can we actually call her a protagonist since she didn’t actually change over the course of the book. Well, she did grow more and more stupid with every page turn. She was literally “too stupid to live by the final page of the book.” Do you really believe that every adult was in on it with the exception of the man in charge? Your black “friend” is being taken away by evil twins for a holiday weekend and your first instinct is to tell your friends, but not the person in danger? Sorry, what? What are we thinking here? The two white people with beautiful blue eyes and flawless blonde hair hunts the unsuspecting black girl in the sequel? I don’t even know what to say right now. Actually, I do-check the next bullet point.

  • The icky feeling brought about by the problematic handling of race and racism. Our protagonist lets us know early on that the Medievals, the elitist popular kids, “were not straightforward racists; nothing so simple.” Racism is simple. I’m not even going to try figuring out what it means to be not a straightforward racist. I guess it’s like some of the people marching with torches while shouting racists slurs being good people. Real sweethearts, I’m sure. Can we all agree that we need to stop diminishing, excusing, and giving a pass to racist actions, sentiments, and statements? Just stop.

  • This book suffered with poor pacing, a lack of tension, and a totally absence of suspense for many reasons. The being the long descriptive passages. For example, imagine you are telling a captive audience about the time you were fighting for your life in the water because a group of insane rich kids are bored by life and desperate to carry on murderous traditions. Does it make sense to interrupt this story for a pages long soliloquy about Robert Downey Jr. playing Sherlock Holmes? The other reason being the reader easily sees everything Greer misses and knows where this book is going before the first chapter ends.

  • Greer, our protagonist, has an extensive knowledge of films. She likes to compare situations to movie scenes. This little habit starts off as a cute bit of character development, the only bit of character development, but at some point it becomes obnoxious. Not to mention, this isn’t the book you want to read if you haven’t seen every major motion picture of the last 75 years because there are no spoiler warnings to be found.

  • The breaking of the fourth wall was too inconsistent to be effective. Even if it were consistent, Greer is far too unlikeable for anyone to care. If she had died, I wouldn’t have minded. Her death would have brought the book to an end.

  • Are we really not telling the police? Really? Seriously? But really?

  • The magic dress?

  • Wait? He hates technology and craves the past? What? You are 18. You are technology. Was that a theme? Did I miss something? Did I miss everything? No, no there was nothing to miss.

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