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S.T.A.G.S.    by M. A. Bennett order for
by M. A. Bennett
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2018 (2018)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Scholarship student attends exclusive private boarding school and becomes an immediate outsider, along with others rejected by the in-crowd. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? But where M. A. Bennett goes from there in S.T.A.G.S. is a totally unexpected, harrowing thrill ride!

The school is St. Aiden the Great. Our heroine (and she soon needs to act the part) is Greer MacDonald. The six privileged insiders (all 'tall, beautiful and clever', also incredibly rich) call themselves the Medievals - and run the school. The novel opens with an admission from Greer that draws readers' curiosity on - 'I think I might be a murderer.' She admits that she helped cause a death. How could things come to this pass? We read on, intent on finding out.

No one talks much to Greer the first half term, until she receives the Invitation from Henry de Warlencourt, 'the best-looking boy in the school', to join him and his friends at his home, Longcross Hall, for a week-end of 'Huntin' Shootin' Fishin''. Inexplicably, two other outsiders have also been invited - Shafeen (tagged Punjabi Playboy by the Medievals); and Carphone Chanel, whom they've also steadily demeaned. Despite reservations, and even a warning, Greer accepts.

Oddly, Henry's parents are not present at luxurious Longcross Hall. There are only the Medievals, their three guests, and the servants. At first, Greer is swept away by the glamour of it all, and by her attraction to Henry, but she soon sees a sinister side to the group activities. Her fellow guests suffer accidents; will Greer be next? You'll have to read the book to see how this develops, but the downtrodden do fight back.

I highly recommend S.T.A.G.S. to readers of all ages. It's fast paced, engrossing, and there's a nasty twist at the end that left me wondering if a sequel is in the works.

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