[Diverse or Nah] The Treatment of POC in S.T.A.G.S.

[Diverse or Nah] The Treatment of POC in S.T.A.G.S.

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.

We are like Serena and Blair when they aren’t enemies. The best team ever.

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.

14 thoughts on “[Diverse or Nah] The Treatment of POC in S.T.A.G.S.

  1. Great post! I have not read the book you are discussing but definitely token diversity is quite annoying in books. I don’t like when authors just use a character’s race/skin colour/sexual orientation/gender etc in the place of actually giving us details about the character’s personality, their likes, their dislikes etc. Race/skin colour/gender/sexual orientation should not be a character’s sole defining trait. I am all for diversity in books. It should be as standard because that is the society we live in today but please make the characters feel multilayered with thought given to their background stories/character motivations etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like it wasn’t as popular as a lot of other books out there but it still came across my mind once and the premise was really interesting so I wanted to read it. It did take me a year or so to finally finish it because I set it down for the majority of a year but at least I finally finished it so I could have an educated response to what I read, rather than just assuming.

      I totally agree. I really, really, really don’t like token diversity. I think the sad part about this was that really, the only diversity factors were race and financial status. Greer was on a scholarship to attend STAGS, so she wasn’t rich like everyone else. Even Chanel was rich, but she wasn’t old money rich, so she was targeted.

      Thank you so much for your thoughts. I like having discussions like this so I can learn more and see what others think.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you have a right to be frustrated. It seems that there are a lot of books out there that have the token poc or sexual orientation. Sometimes it feels like it is just thrown in for no reason at all but just to say, “hey, it has diversity!” I think it definitely needs to be talked about so authors see the frustration of others and hopefully think twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanna. I felt like writing this would be kind of put some people off because I don’t want people to think that I only complain about things, but it was bothering me enough that I needed to write it out somehow. I absolutely hate the “token” character. Don’t use race or sexual orientation as their defining trait, or what makes them a character. There’s so much more to a person than just that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nope, you have every right to make a thing of this. I don’t think a character’s race should ever be used as a plot device; as if someone’s character only extends to the color of their skin. Like, sorry, what is that? The same goes for sexual orientation too. I think that’s just a little in poor taste… Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Leelynn, I think it’s a really important and relevant discussion, even more so now in this time of big changes in our society!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, I love when you do these posts! Thank you so much for your kind words at the beginning ♥ But you are the one that makes this series so great! I think your rant here is completely justified! I sometimes struggle with the same types of conflict because I hate seeing a persons race/sexual orientation/identity etc be used as a plot device. I know some stories have an important message that is dependent on the persons race/sexual orientation/identity, like The Hate U Give or I Wish You All the Best, but like you mentioned, these characters should be SO much more than these things. It’s a poorly written plot to have a character be entirely defined by their skin color.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Brittany ❤ I know there aren't many of these yet, but when the inspiration comes, I know I'll write it and think of you. I appreciate you so much.

      Exactly, I feel like if it's super important to the message or the theme of the novel like THUG (I haven't read I Wish You All the Best yet), then yeah, include it. But if it really is just a plot device and there's nothing else about that character, then I feel like it's a total let down.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s hard to really say much about this book since I haven’t read it, but there are awful, nasty people out there that do target people for their race (or financial status, or something equally irrelevant). If this is the kind of story that makes you think that the “elite” people are jerks because of how they treated Shafeen, then maybe that’s a message some people need to hear. Especially now, when there is so much racial tension. Again, since I didn’t read the book, I don’t know what sort of vibe it gave off. Those sorts of stories can be difficult to read, but maybe there’s people that need to read them?

    I can also see how, if the story is written from a racist’s point of view, someone that they hate would be seen by that person as one-dimensional. You just have to look at the news to see “leaders” make comments about places being “infested” or people being degraded because of their migrant status.

    But perhaps if a person isn’t portrayed as a whole person, then a story isn’t diverse. We’re seeing the world through the eyes of someone who’s a pretty crappy person.

    It sounds like a disturbing story either way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I want to say that the message was that sometimes even the people that you think are the good guys are actually not. Like what you said about the “elites” being the bad guys. Because they really used their status to get away with this for years. It wasn’t just from this group of teenagers. It’s a generational thing, and back then there was no investigation on what would happen to the missing kids because who’s going to doubt the word of one of the richest families in the country?

      I get what you mean by this message has to be said. I totally agree. Although I guess maybe I would have told it differently. Maybe not at all since I wouldn’t know how to do it right.

      It definitely was disturbing to know that something like this could happen for years (with them literally keeping the evidence displayed in their libraries – book entries for decades with the names of their victims and the year they were hunted down) without any kind of punishment.


  6. I don’t know the book you are talking about but sometimes people are treated based on one characteristic even though they obviously are about more than that one trait. In that case, the plot might be dependent on that characteristic but the character possessing that characteristic is not. If told from the oppressor’s perspective only, that one characteristic is all that matters, and that does drive the story. And the absence of humanity ascribed to the person who holds the characteristic is also part of the story. But that is a particular type of book and sometimes people want to read something else. I get that totally. Not everything written about a person belonging to a certain group has to be about the struggle. The kind of random diversity for diversity’s sake that irks me is when characters are added and whatever characteristic they have that supposedly adds diversity to the work does not shape the character at all nor does it have any effect on the plot — ie — oh it would be cool to add an Orthodox Jew to a YA book about football cheerleaders in the South but wait, you can’t have her go to the Friday night football games eating hot dogs so how did she become such good friends with the girls whose social lives revolve around that … Not that it can’t happen, but it does require some explanation. It’s good to have a person who is [insert characteristic] where the story is not only about [insert the characteristic], however, that characteristic has in some way contributed to who they are and at times has contributed to how they are treated. That doesn’t have to be the plot of the book, but if it is ignored then the existence of that characteristic certainly doesn’t contribute to diversity, except to tick the box. Anyway, these days there are more and more books featuring different types of people that are not just about the struggle. That’s a type of diversity in and of itself.

    Liked by 1 person

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