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We Ride Upon Sticks: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) (Paperback)
This book is so much more than the sum of its parts. I could tell you that it’s a literary version of a John Hughes movie (with the welcome addition of race and gender diversity), an immorality tale, if there’s such a thing, and a brilliantly constructed experiment in narrative voice. All of these are accurate if inadequate descriptions, and they won’t prepare you for the hilarity you’re in for.
The year is 1989 and the Danvers Falcons, a girls’ field hockey team, are sick of losing. Spurred by some ineffable force, the team commits their collective soul to an “alternative god,” here represented as a spiral-bound notebook with Emilio Estevez’s face on the cover. Nothing so basic as a generic devil or demon for our girls—this malign influence has so much more personality. And it’s an irrepressible supply of personality that’s bursting from this novel, even as the narrative voice inhabits the team as though it’s a hive mind.
In giving themselves to Emilio, the Falcons trade an uninterrupted winning streak for a pledge to follow their desires with no care for repercussions, social or divine. As they near the final game they did all this for, Emilio’s demands—or the Falcons’ impulses—become more intense, requiring ever-greater, more spectacular displays of devotion.
I’m never going to turn down a book about witches, let’s be honest, but Barry (who’s a lauded poet as well) takes a rich, well-loved and -trodden concept and spins it anew. It’s so, so much fun.
—Sarah, Longfellow Books— From Sarah Recommends!
March 2020 Indie Next List
“This is such a fun romp! It has everything you could possibly want in a book: field hockey, witches, and ’80s bangs that have literally taken on a life of their own. Set in Salem in the 1980s, we follow a group of high school field hockey players as they struggle with their new dark powers and attempt to end their losing streak. One of the strangest, most satisfying books I have read in a long time!”
— Hillary Smith, Copperfield's Books Calistoga, Calistoga, CA
In the town of Danvers, Massachusetts, home of the original 1692 witch trials, the 1989 Danvers Falcons will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers.
Against a background of irresistible 1980s iconography, Quan Barry expertly weaves together the individual and collective progress of this enchanted team as they storm their way through an unforgettable season.
Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity. Through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship, this comic tour de female force chronicles Barry’s glorious cast of characters as they charge past every obstacle on the path to finding their glorious true selves.
About the Author
Raised in the coastal town of Danvers, Massachusetts, Quan Barry is the author of the novel She Weeps Each Time You’re Born and of four books of poetry, including the collection Water Puppets, which won the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and was a PEN Open Book finalist. She lives in Wisconsin and teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: NPR • TIME • BOOK RIOT • LITHUB • KIRKUS REVIEWS
“Quirky, comic, and painstakingly detailed. . . . Barry writes with a sustained, manic energy.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A fresh coming-of-age story.” —Time
“Spellbinding, wickedly fun. . . . Each sentence fizzes like a just-opened bottle of New Coke.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“You may come for the sizzle of genre elements here, but you’ll stay for the rich bond forged by friendships on the field, the memories of misguided youth and the power of belief.” —Variety
“A delightful, hilarious ode to the ‘80s.” —Ms. Magazine
“A perfect blend of aesthetic and narrative pleasure. . . . Very funny and a little angry and a lot of fun.” —Maris Kreizman
“The prose style is neon and the laughs do not stop. I feel like the author wrote the entire book with an evil grin on her face.” —Molly Young, Vulture
“A charming novel that combines the beats of a sports movie with the dramas of teenagers coming of age. . . . There’s plenty of ’80s nostalgia . . . but Barry also delivers an earnest look at the divisions and secrets that can bubble up in a close group in any era.” —The AV Club
“Surprising and ultimately delightful. . . . The narration is playful, making the emotional crescendos even more satisfying. . . . Barry is a skilled storyteller and sentence artist who embraces irreverence where irreverence is due.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Almost too much fun to be allowed. . . . Truly a delight in every way.” —Literary Hub
“In a story filled with friendship, femininity and ‘80s iconography, Barry will keep you laughing with every turn of the page.” —TODAY
“Charming. . . . But Barry is . . . careful not to let nostalgia paper over the real ways in which things were worse in the 1980s, particularly for queer people and people of color.” —NPR
“Riotously entertaining. . . . A witty, unruly ode to female empowerment and camaraderie.” —The Capital Times
“Quan Barry writes of [her characters] lovingly, tracing their coming-of-age with sardonic wit and generous indulgence.” —The Washington Times
“As many '80s references as a Stranger Things fan could desire and a group of unforgettable female characters make this a delightful read.” —BookPage
“Funny and inventive.” —Bookreporter
“Touching, hilarious, and deeply satisfying. . . . Readers will cheer [the team] on because what they’re really doing is learning to be fully and authentically themselves.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A playful, nostalgic run through 1980s suburbia. . . . Barry handles a large cast of characters nimbly and affectionately, allowing each to take a turn or two in the spotlight.” —Publishers Weekly