Alexandra Bracken has done a beautiful job of elevating the idea of time travel for me. Prior to reading Passenger, I was truly turned off by the idea, and really most sci-fi concepts.

Title: Passenger

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Series: Passenger #1

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: January 5th 2016

Page Count: Hardcover, 496 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.

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You’re probably wondering why I picked this book up then. Essentially, the cover was gorgeous, everyone was talking about it, and I thought it would be nice to be introduced to the author slowly rather than diving into her previous series (The Darkest Minds).

I want to begin by saying that I loved this book. That being said, it took me a little while to get into. Bracken’s tale throws us head first into Etta Spencer’s recital. The stakes are high because this is a big event and doesn’t want to disappoint her mother. As we get closer to her performance, things start to get a little crazy. Suddenly Etta finds herself listening to her mother and violin instructor arguing over how she isn’t ready and becomes completely distracted from the goal of the evening. From there, everything spirals out of control and Etta lands on a ship, in a different era, in the middle of the ocean.

This was how I initially perceived the story. Do you ever read a book and anticipate a plot point, so you race ahead in excitement, only to realize that the plot point is never going to come AND you have no idea what you just read? I think that’s why I struggled with the time travel part of this novel initially. I was expecting to be coaxed into the idea rather than propelled forward. Regardless, once I found myself engrossed, I discovered what a wonderful story Bracken has written, about a girl finding her way, a forbidden romance, and a family hell bent on destroying the world.

Flipping back through this story, trying to piece together thoughts for this review, I found myself seeing different clues in the beginning that I had missed. This is one of those novels that I knew I would enjoy but missed a few too many things to understand it at the start.

I think one of the coolest things about this book would have to be the transition between time periods. During every time travel, Bracken breaks up her writing with a header indicating where and when you have arrived. Etta and Nicholas, the ship’s captain, skip through time and space together. Etta deciphering the clues to lead her home, and Nicholas following along to help complete the mission.

These characters are beautiful and well-developed. Even Etta’s mysterious mother (who reminds me in moments of Clary’s mother – The Mortal Instruments Series) feels well established as an individual, regardless of the fact that she is only present for moments within the book. There were also times where Bracken references different historical perspectives such as racism, anti-feminism, and technology during 1776, 1940, 1685, and 1599. This is interesting because we hear about Nicholas’s paradigm from his world in 1776, as well as Etta’s, which would be the same as the reader. I thought this was also an interesting element to provide point of view.

Final Thoughts:

This is not a book that I would recommend picking up before a flight, unless you have great concentration. It’s more one of those books you would take to a cabin while on vacation, KNOWING that you would have time alone to fall into the pages. That’s what I should have done. Instead, I remember being slightly distracted, even though I was lost somewhere on a ship in 1776. Don’t do that. Be in the moment with this book. If you are able to accomplish that, you will be rewarded.

Favorite Quotes:

🗯 “It’s our choices that matter in the end. Not wishes, not words, not promises.”

🗯 “This was the danger, the seduction of time travel, she realized—it was the opportunity, the freedom of a thousand possibilities of where to live and how to start over. It was the beauty open to you in your life if you only stopped for a moment to look.”

🗯 “How do you fight against a mountain? How do you move it when you don’t even have a shovel?” “Maybe you don’t have to move it,” Etta said, folding the gown over the lid of the trunk. “Maybe you have to climb it.”

🗯 “…it matters not who you love, but only the quality of such a love… a flower is no less beautiful because it does not bloom in the expected form. Because it lasts an hour, and not days.”

About the Author

Alexandra Bracken was born in Phoenix, Arizona. The daughter of a Star Wars collector, she grew up going to an endless string of Star Wars conventions and toy fairs, which helped spark her imagination and a deep love of reading. After graduating high school, she attended The College of William & Mary in Virginia, where she double majored in English and History. She sold her first book, Brightly Woven, as a senior in college, and later moved to New York City to work in children’s book publishing, first as an editorial assistant, then in marketing. After six years, she took the plunge and decided to write full time. She now lives in Arizona with her tiny pup, Tennyson, in a house that’s constantly overflowing with books.

Alex is a #1 New York Times bestselling and USA TODAY bestselling author. Her work is available across the world in over 15 languages.

Find her at

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