Trying Not to Shoot Down STAGS…


But it’s so gosh darn hard! Let’s start by going on the prowl…

orangutan huntin' new0007

Don’t get me wrong- it wasn’t all bad- when I first picked it up I thought I was in for a winner. The opening was fantastic: it captured the voice, showcased the writing and presented an ominous concept. I think I might be a murderer… Very intriguing start- it was just a shame that the rest of the book couldn’t live up to that.

Now I really want to take aim at the main character… The thing is, some of the things I just mentioned as selling points get old fast. Peculiarly, even though I was initially drawn in by the protagonist’s snarky voice, it quickly went from fun to irritating. Everything she said was backed up with bitterness and resentment- which made it hard to see her as jokey and ended up coming across as unpleasant. Here are just a couple of examples of her in bitchy mode:

  • “But underneath all the varnish she’s really nice”- it seems pretty presumptuous to assume she wouldn’t be nice based on her appearance.
  • “crack about her freaky husband”- well that was rude and judgemental of you.

The other main issue I had with her was that there was an over-the-top attempt to make her relatable. There are ways to integrate references- but this was not it. Everything from her name (Greer) to her actions is some kind of movie reference. Look, I get the theme- the book’s literally a retelling of The Shooting Party- only the trouble is the narrative was completely overloaded with these references that it became distracting. The narrative was completely overloaded with it. I suspect this was to make her seem *hip*, *trendy* and *geeky* all at once- the problem with this is that a) a lot of these date the book, and b) they also come across as try-hard. Like this:

  • Twilight, I thought; Edward and Bella. And just like the movie, it was dangerous, it was all kinds of wrong, but somehow it was right”. *FACEPALM*. Ughhhh. I. Just. Don’t. Understand. Why, in the history of teen lit and film, was this what you went with?
  • “I had the talisman of Henry’s kiss still printed on my lips, like some invisible superpower from a Marvel movie”- *groan*.
  • “Reader, I’m going out with him”- in case the constant movie references don’t feel like enough of a hodgepodge, throw in a classic.
  • And also this, cos she’s a *smart* heroine: “here’s why I like the genie analogy better than Pandora. The wishes can be good or bad”- I’m not really sure if you’ve read the original Greek myth if you’re coming out with this interpretation, cos it’s actually left open (also you’d know it was a jar, not a box). No idea why there has to be a competition between the myths though.
  • And finally… “I realise that for a Buzzfeed feminist this doesn’t paint me in a very good light”- I think my exact response to this was a guffaw and an eye roll. If you’re looking for your moral arbitration from Buzzfeed, then I can’t help you. But it does bring me onto another flaw in the character…

Her obsession with politics (like the good, well-trained 21st century teen she is) and her constant need to seem profound comes across as un-frickin-believably preachy. I’ve mentioned before that I dislike moralising books and hate pointless shows of political virtue signalling- so it’s no surprise this got on my nerves. Objectively though, while I can guess that there was a political agenda behind this whole story, a lot of this commentary still seemed out of place:

  • “I thought, completely irrelevantly, how handsome he was. Some feminist, Greer”- You’re right- being a teenage girl attracted to a guy is a real quandary for feminists everywhere- now go do some mea culpas and a hail Mary and you’ll feel better.
  • And for the sake of profundity: “The kind of hunting trolls do is in every home, every day, threatening ever y young person’s mental health”- agree or disagree with that statement, it’s kinda random (also maybe more helpful to teach young people this magical trick called turning off their phone- somehow I think this would be somewhat more helpful than encouraging victimhood).
  • “A reality-TV star can become president of the United States without any experience of government.”- yeesh this book trying so hard to say somethinganything (also ironically almost like it’s sticking up for the old order).

Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, the protagonist’s main characteristic is supposed to be that she’s SUPER SMART. Except- forgive me if I’m wrong- knowing popular movie culture, while a neat party trick, doesn’t show that at all. I’m not remotely convinced she has a photographic memory, since she’s often pretty imprecise. I mean, she’s hardly reciting pi to an impossible decimal place. On top of that she’s fairly clueless about stuff she could have picked up in a book- like what a great hall looks like.

This also ends up running up against one of the biggest problems in STAGs: the smart-stupid paradox if you will. Because the mc, by the story’s internal logic has to be smart and pick up on *all the clues* for where the plots going and leave nice, juicy breadcrumbs for us reader… buuut she also has to be moronic and make all the wrong choices anyway, because REASONS.

And here lies the character’s motivation- because NOTHING she did made any sense. And yes, I’m getting frustrated- but you have no idea how many times in my notes I had to read back “wait why is she doing this? Why is she even here?!” While her two companions have logical reasons to go to the house, Greer is consistently portrayed as *above all that*- but still can’t resist delving into their peculiar traditions. She literally states that she’s obsessed with their world- yet can’t resist bashing Longcross as “a museum”. I was frankly bamboozled by this- cos it’s not like she’s gone to Narnia and *oh, big disappointment* the friendly witch previously bribing you with sweets turns out to be evil (see, I can make references too). I haven’t got the faintest idea why you’d want to stay in this stale house where the only entertainment seems to be huntin’, shootin’ and fishin. Nothing sells me on this old-worldly place- if I was the mc I’d have said “no thanks, I’m gonna Netflix and chill this holiday” when I got the invite- which ACTUALLY SEEMS LIKE SOMETHING GREER WOULD SAY. I don’t understand why the whole premise had to be based on someone acting out of character- it felt like a complete contrivance to create a plot out of nothing.

Okay, now that I’ve blasted the mc, my gun is still cocked and loaded, I may as well take out a few stray hares…

rabbits final

Unsurprising from a book that can’t tell its own mc from its elbow, the antagonists aren’t any better. While marginally more consistent, they come across as cartoons (the WHERE’S DAT WABBIT kind). They’re mean, crazy and got a chip on their shoulder about modernisation. Oddly, for people that have never touched technology, sometimes they speak like people that have spent too much time on tumblr: “Privilege is becoming a dirty word” (which is also funny, cos I’m not sure upper class toffs refer to themselves that way). They’re also thick as planks (they no doubt use to beat peasants)- not realising that someone without money could learn to swim- and naturally have an insanely pointless plan. Highlight for spoiler: well, that’s if hobbyist killing counts as a plan. They are part of a religious cult though… that runs a school. Whoop di doo. Did they learn evil from Voldemort’s Stuff to do When You’ve Taken Over the World by any chance? Could’ve at least blown up a couple of bridges and had one satisfying *bang* to make it all worth it, just sayin’.

This was the part of the book that stretched  b e l i e v a b i l i t y  to the absolute limit. Admittedly, it was ridiculous fun, but the emphasis has to be on the ridiculous part. The plot twist was patently absurd- I’ve seen that episode of Buffy recently where they’re feeding girls to a snake monster that makes more sense. I guess it just makes sense to go with the crazy- only know it’s about as far-fetched as the Easter Bunny delivering Christmas presents on Halloween.

easter bunny halloween christmas0009

However, my biggest issue came from the ending: specifically *highlight for spoiler* that she didn’t kill anyone. There was so so much build up for the “murder” that I was incredibly disappointed to find she’d literally done nothing wrong. Not even manslaughter as she’d suggested it might be. I may be a fan of hyperbole, but this made me feel cheated. In fact, all my issues with her character being a bitter and obsessive would’ve been cleared up if she’d been the anti-hero we were promised. Instead, she’s another dumb, inconsistent YA heroine WHO CAN DO NO WRONG. And if that wasn’t enough, the unsatisfying ending continued with the whole *everyone’s in on it* at the school and the fact that the cult continues its malicious doings MWHAHAHAHA. Never mind that this again shows how stupid the heroine was that she didn’t at least consider that (especially when the headmaster/Abbot doesn’t want them to go to the police and lets the cult followers retain power “for appearances sake”). Never mind that it’s about as unsatisfying as a conclusion can be. Ugh and double ugh. I think I’m done here. Thanks to the great writing and brief enjoyment I got from it, I still gave it:

Rating: 3/5 bananas


And one very dead deer…

dead deer0002

(No actual rabbits or deer were harmed in the making of this post- no doubt they got away from me when the story went gallivanting off in its nonsensical direction)

So have you read this? Do you plan to? Would you have got on with the main character more than I did? Let me know in the comments!

44 thoughts on “Trying Not to Shoot Down STAGS…

  1. He he, what a highly creative review – both the writing as well as your beautiful drawing. Glad to know no animals were hurt though, no calls from me to RSPCA then, phew! 😂
    I love that opening premise as well, how fun to explore if the main narrator is losing her mind! Fair point though overall!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read the book, but great review. 😂

    “I realise that for a Buzzfeed feminist this doesn’t paint me in a very good light”

    Ah, BuzzFeed, the best source for complex systemic social issues…

    I like a bit of political/cultural theme in novels, but it should come organically from the characters and setting. If a writer wants to outright state stuff, that’s what essays and non-fiction are for!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!

      hahaha I know right 😉

      I can understand that. Mostly, I just don’t like when it doesn’t really belong and is shoehorned in. But like you, I prefer when an author that wants to directly state stuff to just write non fic/essays.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never heard of this book, but honestly “pop-culture reference overload” is such a pet-peeve that after that you could sing this book’s praises and I still wouldn’t want to read it. I don’t know why authors think referencing a political situation they disagree with is the same as criticising it. “Trump, what an idiot, am I right folks?” is not criticism. If they want to send a message about privileged people abusing their power and money to oppress others then that should be apparent from the narrative and themes, no character should have to come out and say it. Unless they think their readers, like Trump, are idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this book last year and I was sooooo disappointed by it. It had so much potential to be great but it just fell flat in so many places – especially the ending which was just ridiculous!

    Great review!😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fantastic drawings! I found it wonderfully ironic that I just got back from the gun range when I read this review 🙂

    Pop culture references are an instant kill for me now in books. It dates the book to within a year and after those instances are past, nobody know what the author is talking about.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! haha that is a funny coincidence!

      I completely agree with you. There’s only a few classic references that people can get away with- and Buzzfeed isn’t one of them 😉 (I also think this must have been written earlier than it was released as well for there to still be a “cool” Twilight reference- that was a miscalculation in my opinion cos it did not take long for that to age badly 😉 )

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I haven’t read this, but I would like to – there’s just something about the elite school trope that I find irresistible. But ugh, I’m really disappointed to hear about the character’s preachiness, this blatant injection of virtue signaling has become one of my biggest pet peeves in recent years. Thanks for the warning, I’m glad the book ended up halfway decent at least, but I’m no longer in a rush to read t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah i totally get that- that’s why I had high hopes for this too. But it did have wayy too much preachiness- which was frustrating and so unnecessary. I really agree with you there! Yeah, it was still really enjoyable, even if it was a bit ridiculous. Hope you like it more than I did!


  7. I haven’t read STAGS and now I don’t think I will. I cannot stand overly preachy books – I get that lots of books have themes and messages, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be in your face about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, what a review! Really interesting to read. I hadn’t heard of this book – though given there are few things that annoy me more than a main character making illogical decisions (and strained pop culture references) I don’t think it sounds like something for me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ouch! This review was soooo savage and I love it xD (oops, isn’t “savage” the new hipster word in town nowadays? Might be my tumblr-addict self)
    But yeah, really enjoyed your assessment of this book, which incidentally I have been meaning to read for aaaages. It just sounds so epic, you know? But, of course, it had to be disappointing…
    I’ll still pick it up, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll keep my expectations way lower based on your review. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it a bit more than you, though xD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. heheheh thank you! (lol- it is- and what’s also funny is it’s used in this book too, cos, you know, it’s super down with the kids 😉 ) Yeah it did really sound epic- unfortunately it didn’t live upto its promise for me- hopefully if you read it you’ll get more out of it than I did! At least it was enjoyably ridiculous, so I don’t think you’ll be miserable reading it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh God. They called her Greer (what could that mean???) then made her a “Buzzfeed feminist” (what even is that?) and gave her some nonsense idea that she’s not allowed to find people attractive – I’M SO CONFUSED WHAT IS THIS CHARACTER MEANT TO BE??? Then the Twilight references (because finger on the pulse of youth culture?) and Trump = bad… This book sounds like a shit show. Lovely pictures and review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahaha I know right 😉 Oh if you don’t know already, then trust me *you don’t want to know*!! hahahah I know!! 😂😂😂 hehehehe yeahhh it’s a shame Twilight went from cool to not-so-cool in the time it took for this to get published 😉 And yep, it was super smart that way 😉 hehehe well it was an enjoyable shit show, but yeah, that about sums it up 😉 Thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I loved reading your review, it’s just a shame you didn’t love reading this book as much. 🙂 I read STAGS a little while ago and I think at the time I quite enjoyed it but reading your review has made me re-think certain things, mainly the ending because looking back yeah I’m kind of let down by what the MC did (or didn’t) do.
    I’ve read books where I haven’t been able to connect with the main character, and for me it’s kind of been the kiss of death for that particular book. Do you plan to pick up anymore of the authors releases, I think there’s another one out or coming out called The Island?
    It’s a shame this book wasn’t what you’d hoped for, especially after the promising beginning, but again great review. 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! hehe well I didn’t hate it- but it had its flaws. Yeah the mc was one of the weak points. It definitely does that to me too. I’m considering it for sure- especially cos I’ve seen it in the library- I do think the author has a lot of skill as a writer. Yeah it was a shame! Thanks though! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. No idea how anyone could like characters depicted like that.. Preachy… Obviously trying real hard to be profound… And all those references? Yikes. But hey, I did love your drawings. Love how you’re incorporating more and more of those in the past year. Does it take you time to do them, do you put in time while reviewing to create some for specific posts too? Hahah Great review as always! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah absolutely. hehehe yeah it ws a bit much! Aww thank you!! I’ve had a lot of fun doing them. Not that much- I kind of do them when I watch TV lol 😉 hehe and they’re inspired by the books (but sometimes I take a bit longer with the review if I come up with a cool cartoon idea 😉 ) Thank you so much!! That means a lot!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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