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We Ride Upon Sticks

Cover: 'We Ride Upon Sticks'

Staff Review: "We Ride Upon Sticks" by Quan Barry


The year is 1989. The hair is big, Janet Jackson rules the radio, and practically every teen is decked out in Jordache and Z. Cavaricci. For the young women on the Danvers High School field hockey team, their senior year is expected to bring another year of disappointment, consistent with their track record of losing big-time. But after one of the girls, Mel, writes a pledge to the devil in an Emilio Estevez-covered binder, she starts playing like a pro. She soon brings her other teammates on board, who also make the pledge, and the team suddenly becomes unbeatable.

The town of Danvers, Massachusetts, is the site of the original Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s. As the Lady Falcons (as they’re known) become an unstoppable force, they feel the town’s history pulsing through them. The team realizes that “Emilio” (the name they give to the dark force that aids them) feeds on chaos and bad deeds. To keep their winning streak going, the players commit such misdeeds as disfiguring cars at a car wash fundraiser, destroying property on Halloween night, and starting a rumor that a teacher had a sexual affair with a student. As the season progresses, the team begins questioning the things Emilio is compelling them to do and wonder just how far they’ll go to win the state championship.

The novel chronicles the field hockey season throughout the fall of 1989, with each chapter focusing on a different member of the team. There’s Jen Fiorenza, one of the team captains and the self-appointed leader of the pack; Julie Minh, a quiet, conservative Christian girl who becomes emboldened to strike out on her own and start experiencing life; Boy Cory, the only male on the team, who’s questioning his sexuality and sexual identity; Abby Putnam, the great great great something-or-other of one of the original Salem townspeople; and many others. Jen Fiorenza’s high, carefully-coiffed 80’s bangs – known as The Claw – is even a character of sorts, continually offering colorful observations and commentary throughout the story.

This book was chock-full of 80’s references, comedy, supernatural themes, and a whole lot of originality. I loved getting to meet each of the team members in depth and delving into their lives and personal motivations. I’ve seen the book described as a combination of Heathers, The Breakfast Club and The Craft, which I’d say is accurate. It was a pure delight to read.

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

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