Book Review: We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

Arright, straight up: THIS is why I love reading challenges so much.

So, for the 2023 Popsugar Reading Challenge, I needed a book with mythical creatures. I’m not much of a fantasy-type reader, tbh; it’s just not something that’s ever really appealed to me, and as I went searching, nothing on the lists of suggestions really appealed to me, either (I think this was actually the last category I filled out, and that’s because I went back to it later, after not being able to make a decision at first). Finally, I decided on We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry (Pantheon Books, 2020), a story of a New England girls’ field hockey team that gets involved in witchcraft. Witches, I can handle! And oh my goodness, I’m SO glad I read this book!

In first person plural omniscient (I think that’s right!), Quan Barry tells the story of the Danvers, Massachusetts (just outside of Salem) girls’ field hockey team in their senior year of 1989-90. Their team stinks; last year was so not good, but this year…they’ve learned a few things from the witches of Salem past, and things are shaping up to be different. After a ritual or two, the wins start piling up, and as the girls feed the darkness with some chaos here and there, their wins only increase. But what is it that’s causing this to happen? And how far are they willing to go?

If you’re my age or older, this is a glorious throwback to the delights of the 1980’s. Quan Barry has captured the magic of the area in all its glory: the music, the clothing, the celebrities (hello, Emilio Estevez!), the relative freedom experienced by most teenagers at the time. Someone on Goodreads describes this as Heathers meets The Crucible and that nails it (I too picked up on the Heathers vibe; score one for me!). If you like all those great old 80’s movies, you’re going to love this book.

I wasn’t 100% sure about reading this going into it. It’s so far outside what I normally read, so it was a tentative beginning. And then, the more I got into it, the more I fell in love with all the bold, daring characters and the overall fun-yet-still-a-little-dark tone of the book. By 100 pages, I didn’t want the book to end. I’m so very, very glad I decided to participate in this year’s Popsugar Reading Challenge. The best part about these challenges is finding new-to-me authors and being pushed to read outside my comfort zone. I never would’ve picked this up without being prompted, but reading this was so incredibly joyful and fun, and I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time!

Visit Quan Barry’s website here.


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