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.
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.
Barry writes with a sustained, manic energy that propels these former losers—at least on the field—into a championship team ... The reason behind all this urgency for victory? Unclear. Or perhaps, what isn’t clear is why the reader should care if these girls get what they want ... In telling her story, Barry takes a not entirely successful risk with point of view. An omniscient narrator speaks for the entire team, so the book is delivered by a collective and confusing 'We.' There are so many girls, with so many clever names ... Because of Barry’s determination to provide the complete gamut of female teenage experience, the novel lacks an emotional center: a teenage girl to latch on to. To love or hate, or even to root for ... quirky, comic and painstakingly detailed ... It feels wrong to find fault with a book that is so filled with good intentions. But the sheer quantity of clever sentences and wry observations weighs the story down, until the championship game becomes not only anticlimactic, but also strangely beside the point.