We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry tells the story of a girls’ field hockey team in the 80s, doomed to failure until they turn to the dark powers of witchcraft and make a deal with the devil (represented by an Emilio Estevez notebook) in order to finally win one season. This is a moving, intricate novel, told from a collective perspective rather than through individual points of view, which makes for a fresh and unique dive into the characters and their psyches. And despite the size of the main cast, each character is paid their due. By the end of the novel, you’ll be intimately familiar with every one. It also has a delightful sense of humour, treating supernatural happenings like telepathic communication and the all-knowing power of the team co-captain’s beached blonde fringe (known as The Claw) like mundane facts of life. Barry’s prose is elegant and beautiful, and perfectly captures how it feels to be a teenage girl. It’s applicable both to those who grow up in the 80s, and to those who are still teenagers now. We Ride Upon Sticks appears to be a simple tale of 80s nostalgia, but it’s actually an innovative story about the ingenuity and cleverness of teenage girls, and the unbreakable bonds and team camaraderie between them.
Gemma Turner (Queen's Square Library)