In Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks, it’s 1989, and the middling Danvers High School Girls Varsity Field Hockey Team turns to witchcraft to help them make it to state finals (with the help of a possibly-haunted Emilio Estevez-covered notebook dubbed “Emilio” and the local lore of neighbouring Salem, Massachusetts).
I just finished the book and I’m lying in bed awake with my heart feeling like it might burst out of my chest because – the absolutely nuclear power of teenage girls, man. Written in the first person plural “we”, which is neither a gimmick nor is it confusing but is in fact a genius writing decision that complements the story so well I may cry (this review may be strongly edited once I’ve had time to calm down), Quan Barry weaves together eleven-plus individual plotlines each with its own tiny mysteries into the story of one hive-minded team and sticks every single landing. The prose is rich, demanding to be savoured and insisting that you take the time to fully understand it (much like the Danvers Falcons themselves??) and leaves you with an understanding of this tangled cast of characters akin to the chaos and clarity of a family wedding or funeral.
I love this book. If I ever have daughters I will give them this book and hope that they find whatever sets them free to grow, twist, tangle, be absolutely themselves, in all of the darkness and meanness and joy and messy glory that entails.