In the coastal town of Danvers, Massachusetts, where the accusations began that led to the 1692 witch trials, the 1989 Danvers High School Falcons field hockey team will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers.
Narrated in the collective 'we,' the book takes on the task of crafting compelling characters out of 11 protagonists, and succeeds in spades. The side characters include various personified body parts ... The presence of these sort-of-sentient corporeal entities is but one colorful pane in a surprising and ultimately delightful narrative mosaic ... The narration is playful, making the emotional crescendos even more satisfying. Humor is an abundant buffer to rage, confusion, sadness and the tricky waters of love. Barry is a skilled storyteller and sentence artist who embraces irreverence where irreverence is due ... Sticks...only falters in some of its use of gender stereotypes ... However, the book treats all of its characters with a love so tender that even with these stereotypes, it’s impossible not to love them, too.
... deliciously irreverent ... a send-up of 1980s cultural ephemera with a Gen Z sensibility ... After the first preseason game in Durham, New Hampshire, Barry deftly pivots to a more total view of the team’s lives ... it’s the panoply of voices, each with their own concerns and neuroses, that are the greatest joy and propulsion for the narrative, even for those of us too young to share Barry’s encyclopedic knowledge of each trend and advertising slogan from the late ‘80s ... what keeps it fresh is Barry’s electric prose, through which she captures the esprit de corps of a high school varsity squad just as well as the 1980s zeitgeist drips like sticky residue from the potions, wine coolers, and spirits the team lifts from their parents’ cabinets ... The first-person plural voice allows for a kaleidoscopic effect, from the self-conscious stereotypical consumerism of a trip to the mall or the pounding refrains of Pat Benatar or Janet Jackson, to a prescient lens that provides perspective beyond the shallow desires of prom dress, first kiss, and the life lessons their—and many—modern-day sex education curriculums failed to instill ... Some readers might find the cumulative effect of those same rhetorical devices grating. The foreshadowing Barry allows herself through the omniscient first-person plural propels most of the plot development, rather than a more inherent driving force in the narrative ... But... it just might cast a spell on you, too.
Barry, who has published four collections of poetry, definitely did the English homework ... she also is gloriously literate in the advertising lingo of the late eighties—hence losing one's virginity is 'taking the Nestea plunge' ... Barry is the queen of the register shift ... the pleasure of the book is all texture, at the expense of tension. It is too whimsical to maintain suspense, and the team members' personal histories are too long, despite winning interludes like a series of mock college admissions essays ... But Barry is careful not to let nostalgia paper over the real ways in which things were worse in the 1980s, particularly for queer people and people of color. At times, this point feels labored, particularly in the case of a trans character, but it is still welcome.