Passenger by Alexandra Bracken | Rating: ★★★★★
“You cannot fathom the distance I would travel for you.”
Was that a quote from the book or from myself to Alexandra Bracken’s books? Answer: both. I literally had to drive to a bookstore that was an hour and a half away to get this little baby. And that was without the traffic. But it was so, so, so worth it.
As a massive fan of Alexandra Bracken and her absolutely glorious and captivating series The Darkest Minds, I’ve been looking forward to her next release since it was announced. And by that, I mean I’ve been impatiently fiddling with my fingers and doing some sort of awkward “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so scared!” dance.
Passenger promised to be many things: romantic, mysterious, thrilling. Really, who can resist a good old fashioned time travel romp? I know I can’t. It’s the biggest plus in the history of pluses that Alexandra Bracken is the author who is bringing us the latest.
Our story begins in present day New York City and introduces us to our latest heroine: Etta Spencer. Etta is really smart and badass and a great narrator to peak into. I couldn’t help but to love her instantaneously and wept with her as her life becomes something unexpected. You see, our dear Etta (her full name is Henrietta, if you were wondering) has the normal life of a violin prodigy.
Many would say that her music is the most important thing in her life. In fact, it's the very reason she doesn't have much of a life to begin with--most of her days are spent without free timef and focused solely on her craft. And on this fateful first day our story begins, we see her life derail entirely after a recital goes wrong and so much goes up in flames.
In one clean swoop, Etta’s entire world changes and she loses someone she loves. Making matters worse, she is taken away by a girl she doesn’t know and suddenly there is so much she has to learn of her life and what she thought she knew about her mother.
So here’s the short reasoning for all of this: Etta has the ability to time travel. She comes from a family of such and her mother had kept this from her, her entire life. And as it turns out, her mother has been keeping so much more from her than she’d ever thought–this coming from someone who doesn’t have a particularly close relationship with her novel at the start of the novel anyways.
It's not easy to learn that nearly everything you've ever been told is basically a lie. There’s so much that Etta learns in such a small time frame I’m quite surprised her head didn’t explode. In fact, the way she kept much of her cool and grew through the course of one novel was admirable and what made me love her all the more. Etta is the YA character we deserve! And fortunately for us readers, she only gets better as the novel goes on.
Essentially, she discovers all these secrets after the recital from hell and she is taken away by a mysterious girl named Sophie, who was undercover and traveled to bring Etta to her grandfather, who is basically a bit like a mob boss in time traveling manners.
During this time, Etta is introduced to Nicholas.
As it happens, Nicholas is the man in charge of his own ship. He is a time traveler as well–or was, until something changed his course and tragedy struck–and is absolutely the star of the book. Don’t get me wrong, Etta is too and their friendship and subsequent romance is a huge part of the novel, but Nick was my personal favorite.
Etta and Nick grow together and separately from the time of their introduction to the final pages and that’s what made this story flow so well and what made it such a pleasant experience. I liked that they came together in spite of obstacles and their own missions, I liked that they were incredibly protective over one another.
All of the adventures they take in with one another are such a blast to watch!
I can’t say much about their travels without spoiling their whole story–the whole novel–but I will say it’s the sort of book that will have your heart racing. Whether that be in the more swoon-worthy moments, the action packed ones, the mysteries or the thrills, it’ll get your heart going.
It's not unlike Outlander in this trait: the racing against time bits, the heart pounding madness and romance.
For me, my favorite part of Passenger was the many settings that could be explored with time travel. Bracken packs on the thrills with the mysteries settings and their search for a very important item; her writing is grand and descriptive that makes a very gorgeous painting when it comes to the many places Etta and Nick travel to. It's interesting seeing Nick and Etta establish a connection and try to blend into timelines other than their own, it's a tricky experience but very fun to read!
I also loved how these times and the years between were portrayed. Nick and Etta both come from extremely different upbringings and have decades and decades between the two. I also loved the concept that even when a time traveler dies, it’s still a huge possibility that your timelines may cross with theirs once more.
Etta’s relationship with Alice, her mentor and mother’s friend who is taken from the story far too soon (in spite of her old age), is another excellent relationship in the mix. Alice was a lot like a mother or grandmother to Etta and was really the only one who expressed her love to Etta. I liked that we got to see the woman when she was merely a girl; that Etta was able to travel back to see a younger Alice and there was an undeniable amount of trust between the two even then.
In many ways, Etta was shaken by Alice’s death more than anything else, including the whole time travel debacle. Which will come as no surprise when I say she was determined to get back to her timeline and alter the past to make sure Alice lives.
This, of course, is not possible due to many rules that come with traveling. Etta does receive a bit of closure though when she meets with the young Alice and there’s always the possibility that Etta could go back again to see her one day, should she be able to actually keep her original timeline.
I was absolutely devastated and shocked by the big reveal when we are told who killed Alice. I mean! How! Why! God, what an awful character–I won’t spoil it, but this made me never want to warm up to a specific character, you know, ever.
Onto the finale…
So much happened besides the reveal, the big revelation of who killed Alice, and where Nick and Etta’s search left them. I was so thrown by the reappearance of one other character, as well as their betrayal. And then there’s a spot of light in Nick’s backstory that could be a huge game changer.
Lastly… there’s a disappearance. Which, again, I can’t say who or what but it was so fucking wild. I’m so scared and excited for what that means could happen next! Now that one of our leading characters has disappeared–literally into thin air–the other is left to pick up the pieces and find the other, with an unexpected guest and potentially deadly ally.
All and all, Passenger is a thrill ride from start to finish that will grip your heart and tug on its strings. Etta and Nick are a pair that OTP dreams are made of! It has everything a good novel should have and deserves a great deal of praise–I need the sequel, now, Bracken!