We Ride Upon Sticks: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Starred Review From Kirkus:

Almost 300 years after the town of Danvers, Massachusetts, hosted the infamous 1692 witch trials, a new coven rises to power.
The 1989 Danvers High School girls’ field hockey team (go Falcons!) is sick and tired of losing. Frustrated after yet another loss at a summer training camp, goalie Mel Boucher takes matters into her own hands by signing a “dark pledge” in a spiral notebook with a picture of Emilio Estevez printed on the cover: “Years later [Mel] would try and explain why she did it by saying that sometimes the Lord is busy and He needs us to be self starters, show a little moxie.” Emilio, whom right halfback Heather Houston calls an “alternative god,” shows his gratitude by improving the team’s performance in their next game, and one by one the rest of the players sign their names in the book, each of them given a cut-off slice of an old sock (in Falcon blue) to tie on their arm as a symbol of their pledge. When the official season starts and the Falcons start winning games, the girls feel Emilio pushing them toward their more devilish impulses. As they cause increasing mayhem around Danvers, the team can feel Emilio demanding more from them, and they worry they won’t be able to keep the magic going long enough to win the state championship. Barry (She Weeps Each Time You’re Born, 2014, etc.) is deeply witty, writing the narrator as a sort of omniscient group-think, the team speaking as one wry voice. Barry spends time with each of the team members and examines their struggles with the gender norms of the late 1980s as well as with race, identity, family, and friendship. Three of the characters are women of color who have complex relationships to being surrounded mostly by white people; a few of the girls discover budding nuance in their sexuality; and they all start to wonder if witchcraft is really about taking up space in a world that wants to keep you small. As Emilio pushes them further down the path of darkness, readers will cheer them on because what they’re really doing is learning to be fully and authentically themselves.
Touching, hilarious, and deeply satisfying.

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

Description


"We Ride Upon Sticks . . . is for the kind of adults who watch Stranger Things and still have, somewhere, an athletic award inscribed on a paper plate." —NPR

Acclaimed novelist Quan Barry delivers a tour de female force in this delightful novel. Set in the coastal town of Danvers, Massachusetts, where the accusations began that led to the 1692 witch trials, We Ride Upon Sticks follows the 1989 Danvers High School Falcons field hockey team, who will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. In chapters dense with 1980s iconography—from Heathers to "big hair"—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 in order to find their glorious true selves through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship.

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.

Praise For…


**USA Today “5 Books Not to Miss”**
**TIME “12 New Books You Should Read in March”**
**PopSugar “25 Books to Add to Your March Must-Read List”**
**Lit Hub “10 Books You Should Read in March”**
** Vulture “32 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2020”**
**Alma’s “Favorite Books for 2020”**
**Bustle “20 Most Anticipated Books of March”**


“Psst. Hey you. Yeah, you. If you’re looking for a good time, call . . . your local bookstore and ask them to set aside a copy of Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks with your name on it. This novel, in which a high school field hockey team turns to the dark side (well, sort of) via a pledge penned in purple in an Emilio Estevez notebook (it’s the 80s), is almost too much fun to be allowed. I haven’t snickered so much reading a novel since I was a kid, but it’s not just slapstick, or the pure goofiness of the time period—the pleasure comes from Barry’s ludicrous, masterful sentences as much as it does from her ludicrous, over-the-top characters. Truly a delight in every way.” —Emily Temple, Lit Hub Senior Editor

“This is a novel by a poet and it rules . . . 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

“Packed with the ’80s flare of Stranger Things.” —Sabienna Bowman, PopSugar
 
“The book takes on the task of crafting compelling characters out of eleven protagonists, and succeeds in spades. [A] delightful narrative mosaic . . . Barry is a skilled storyteller and sentence artist who embraces irreverence where irreverence is due . . . As the story wind-sprints toward its deeply gratifying ending, one can’t help but grab a stick and hold on.” —Sarah Neilson, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Spellbinding, wickedly fun . . . Each sentence fizzes like a just-opened bottle of New Coke.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“Riotously entertaining . . . A witty, unruly ode to female empowerment and camaraderie” —Rob Thomas, The Capital Times

“A delightful, hilarious ode to the ’80s.” —Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine

“A perfect blend of aesthetic and narrative pleasure . . . It’s very funny and a little angry and a lot of fun.” —Maris Kreizman

“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)

“Think about your favorite ’80s teen movies, and then think of all the ills they perpetuated—the casual racism and the slut-shaming, not to mention the homophobic stereotypes. We Ride Upon Sticks is a novel that captures the giddy fun of your favorites—the wild parties and the teased bangs, the outsiders with the witty one-liners and the thrill of winning the big game—but it also breaks apart the myths of ’80s teen tropes by putting the story in context. As narrated by the 11 members of the Danvers Falcons women’s varsity field hockey team in 1989 and in the more enlightened present day, the novel follows the team’s meteoric rise from mediocrity to the state championship after signing their names in a powerful, potentially witchy notebook with Emilio Estevez’s face on the cover.” —Vulture

“Charming . . . Pat Benatar pounds throughout this novel, ‘Hit me with your best shot’ being applicable to a surprising number of situations, athletic, romantic, and supernatural . . . 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. ” —Annalisa Quinn, NPR.org

“Quan Barry writes of [her characters] lovingly, tracing their coming-of-age with sardonic wit and generous indulgence.” —Claire Hopley, The Washington Times

“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. Readers with fond, or even not so fond, memories of the 1980s are bound to be entertained.” —Publishers Weekly


Product Details
ISBN: 9781524748098
ISBN-10: 1524748099
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020
Pages: 384
 
 
 
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