I want to send a special thank you again to my book buddy and twin, Brittany The Book Guru, for encouraging me to write about diversity in novels, and start this series. Thank you so much for everything, and I know I tell you that every single day, but I can’t tell you that enough.
So as you probably saw from the title of this post, I’m talking about the latest book that I read: S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett. If you want to read a little bit of my review, click on the title here. In this post, I’m going to have some spoilers because I had a lot of feelings about this book and just how these kids would treat people that weren’t like them, not just poor, but also a different race, a different skin color.
One of the things that Greer, our main character, kept mentioning throughout the novel was that this group of popular kids called “The Medievals” would constantly pick on Shafeen, this prince from South Asia, and constantly call him stuff like “The Punjabi Prince” or other stuff even when he wasn’t Indian. I know he even said where he was from, and since I listened to the audiobook without taking notes (I’m honestly notorious for this), I honestly don’t remember where he was from either. But I mean, to pick on Shafeen solely because he isn’t your typical blonde hair, blue eyed, white skinned British elite is beyond me.
Another thing that Shafeen even mentioned towards the end of the novel, when he, Greer and Chanel realize that they were specifically being targeted by the Medievals on this weekend of “huntin’ shootin’ fishing'” as they call it, his father was a target back in 1969 when he attended STAGS Academy. The history of choosing their victims have been people that aren’t like them: scholarship kids, dark skinned kids, etc. They mentioned the dark skinned bit a lot, and those kids were the ones that ended up being murdered. No trace of their murder ever being discovered as anything more than an “unfortunate accident”.
The police cover this up, the friars at the school cover it up, and to find out that the Abbott is the head of this whole Order of the Stag was disconcerting. These kids thought that they were going to get an elite education by being accepted into this school, only to find out that one weekend, they would be targeted by the school’s popular kids to be “put in their place.”
Put in their place.
I spell all of this out because I’m frustrated. The book was good… I didn’t hate it, but I hated that the reason why these kids (Shafeen most especially), and the others that we don’t even know because they were glossed over, were targeted was because of their differences, one of them being their skin color. This is something that they can’t help, no matter how much they want to. They didn’t rub in their skin color to these kids’ faces, making themselves seem better than others because they are the minority of the school. They dealt with being shunned and isolated until the weekend came where they were under the impression that they actually had friends finally.
Only to be “put in their place” by breaking them down, or not coming back at all.
I don’t know. Maybe I just needed to rant about it because the books that I had been reading didn’t have this aspect involved in it. It’s one thing to tease people because of their skin color, but it’s another to treat them like animals because of it. To hunt them, to shoot them, to fish them, in order to show them who is really in charge.
Would the book have been as meaningful if Shafeen wasn’t involved? Maybe. Would the book have been better if the only reason these kids were targeted was because of their financial status? I think it wouldn’t have taken away from it at all.
Am I just making a big deal out of nothing?
If you got this far, let me know what you think. Do we have to use someone’s race as a plot device, a reason to have someone in the story, rather than it just being another description piece? Does it really do much for the story that if it wasn’t included, the story wouldn’t make any sense? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so I’m not the only one feeling bothered by this.