We Ride Upon Sticks: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) (Paperback)
It’s 1989 and the Danvers Lady Falcons field hockey team is having another crappy year. So what harm could it do to take a cue from the witches of the city’s past and inscribe their names in a demonic book, especially if it helps you start winning games? With each game getting its own chapter, and each chapter bringing another player and her journey to adulthood to life, Barry’s second novel captures the excitement of a pennant race with the power of a feminist comic novel, notably a comic-steeped-in-the-eighties one.— Daniel Goldin
One of the things I loved about this book is it reads as if one of my best friends is talking. The casual, funny, chatty writing style, liberally dosed with sniping and sarcasm, fits the story perfectly. Set in Danvers, home of the original witch trials, a girl’s losing field hockey team signs itself over to the dark side in order to become a winning team. Hilarity ensues, with loads of action accompanied by occasional moments of soul-searching.— Kay Wosewick
We Ride Upon Sticks is an empowering tribute to the decade of the ‘80s, girlhood, and women of all sorts. The story follows the 1989 varsity girls field hockey team of Danvers High, ready to start another season after an impressively long losing streak. This time, however, they are going to do whatever it takes to get to States - even if it means following in the footsteps of those teen girls that lived in their town three centuries ago by dabbling in a bit of witchcraft. Told from the point of view of all the girls at once with the collective ‘We,’ Barry introduces us to each of these teen girls that signed their name in the devil’s book (which is actually just a spiral notebook with Emilio Estevez on the cover), giving us their hopes, struggles, and reasons for turning to darkness. Except, are dark forces really at work here? Or is it just the ever-constant, ever-changing ordeal of being a woman? Barry expertly weaves a tale with big hair, outrageous fashion, and rocking music without being over-the-top cheesy, giving us a story that every girl and woman has lived through while at the same time being entirely unique.— Margaret Kennedy
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