Damn was I relieved to read the Goodreads reviews of Welcome to Braggsville and discover that reasonably intelligent people found this as hard to read as I did. I received this book in the Book Riot Best of 2015 Box but it was already on my to-read list so I can’t even blame Book Riot for it.
It starts out strong – the reader is dropped in the middle of a group of people at a California University, all of whom feel like they don’t fit in, who come together and form their own little band of misfits. But then there are all these weird random chapters where words are just repeated over and over again, or you get a ton of details about something that doesn’t feel important (and inevitably isn’t important), or chapters that are stream of consciousness with numerous characters and it’s never clear whose thoughts they are. These chapters are supposed to be playful or cutting edge or something, I assume, but for this reader they’re just distracting. They did not add plot points and they seemed overall unnecessary.
Just as I was about to give up on this book, all of a sudden this . . . thing happened. I don’t want to say what it is because it’s an enormous plot point to give away but essentially this book that was about these kids who wouldn’t normally mix, you know, mixing, was about . . . something else entirely. This was almost halfway into the book! It felt manipulative. I wondered why the hell the author had bothered with all these pages about other things when the story was way over there, as it turns out, but, in the end, it also worked on me. I was back on board.
And then it happened all over again. These interesting and complicated conversations on race and . . . other things, took a back-burner to weirdo chapters that served no purpose.
If I was rating Welcome to Braggsville chapter by chapter there’d be a hell of a lot of 5-star chapters and plenty of 1-star chapters. This was one of those books that I really, really wanted to love much more than I did. In the end, finishing it was a chore and I don’t know that I’d recommend it to anyone.