We Ride Upon Sticks
By Quan Barr
Published by Vintage
February 16, 2021
One of my book club friends, Gina, has an incredible talent of finding books that sway from the typical historical fiction or rom-com to which we tend to gravitate. This was no exception. What a fun read! I love anything set in the 80’s or about high school, so for me, this book was a happy trip back in time to leg warmers, big hair and Bon Jovi. Centering around a girl’s field hockey team in Massachusetts who begin using witchcraft to win their games, it was hands down one of the funniest books I have read so far this year.
The 1989 Danvers Falcons want so bad to win the championship that one by one, each player signs “the book”- (Called Emilio, after Estevez, obvs) and commits to do whatever it takes to be the victors. From burying a dead rabbit in the center of the football field to flashing a teacher from the girl’s bathroom, these chicks are determined to win. As they begin crushing their opponents, they “recharge” Emilio by feeding the notebook with their writings, confessions and dark little deeds.
Even though there is a team of 11 girls (and one boy), it is easy to follow. Quan does such a fantastic job of identifying each character that you quickly feel like they are your BFF’s. Subjects such as religion, adultery, sex, coming out, (and staying in), teenage angst- there is a bit of everything. All told in a typical teenage- sarcastic way.
The cast of characters is one of the best combinations ever. It reminds me of how good the “Friends” cast was. You know when you get that group of people that just mix perfectly? Like “LOST”. And “This is Us”. (Although this book is NOTHING like either of those shows). This bunch was gold- each fitting perfectly together to deliver a REALLY good book.
There are just too many funny parts to mention. The naming of two rabbits- Marilyn Bunroe and Luke Skyhopper? Hilarious. Mel, with the teratoma on her neck – that talks (growls), grows and quite possibly has teeth when it is removed- and is named Le Splotch? HILARIOUS! Nicky and the Chin, Julie’s little brother, dubbed “The Prophet, Boy (and Girl) Cory, and the ability to carry on group-wide conversations with no one uttering a word aloud? Crazy brilliant.
Last but not least, The “Claw”? I can’t.
I mean, I canNOT.
The Claw is quite possibly one of my very favorite characters not only in this book, but in the history of forever. Perched on top of Jen Fiorenza’s head, sprayed within an inch of it’s life, these bangs see all and have very strong opinions about everything. The Claw feels, it emotes, it bitch-slaps. It is truly a teen-aged girl. Quan, The Claw needs her own book. Like, totally.
The ending for me was alright, if not a bit dark (I mean, I would NEVER have danced around naked in front of my high school friends. Like, EVER), but overall, a solid read. It did take me a lot longer to read this than a normal 300+ page book. There was no skimming anything in this story- you blink, you miss it. But that was not a problem for me; the story was really good and kept me engaged, and I found myself literally laughing out loud and repeating the line I just read more than once.
I liked how the author tied up everything at the very end and took us forward in time to present day. I want to go back in time and be in school with these girls! I will- FOR SURE- be quoting the Claw and this look for a long time to come. For anybody who wants a funny, hilarious romp back to1989, READ THIS BOOK. The Claw demands.