fiction · YA

Book Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Ooh, time travel. And YA. I like both of these, so that’s how Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (Disney-Hyperion, 2016) ended up on my TBR. It’s a series, and while I’m not normally much of a series reader, I figured I’d give it a try.

Passenger tells the dual-narrative story of Etta, an up-and-coming violinist who is thrown back in time to meet Nicholas, a sailor whose skin color has been at the mercy of the cruel, manipulative Ironwood family for far too long. The Ironwoods want nothing more than to control everything, and it’s through Etta that they’ll make this happen- or else her mother will die. Offered a taste of freedom but touched by the desire to keep Etta safe, Nicholas tears off after her through time, and together the two of them seek out the astrolabe hidden by Etta’s traveler mother.

It’s no easy task for a multitude of reasons, including the evil Thorns, the difficulties of time traveling without standing out, and the never-ending prejudice that crops up in every. single. society. Their journey will bring them closer together, but that only makes the danger that much scarier…

I liked but didn’t love this. The characters are fine (Nicholas is particularly enjoyable), the settings are fascinating (various countries at various points throughout history), the villains are utterly dastardly… I think the storyline was just too complicated for me to fully enjoy right now, combined with the fact that I tend to prefer first-person narratives rather than third-person. I realize this may put me in the minority of readers; my library book club has stated that they prefer third-person narration, which surprised me, because I’m so very much a first-person narration fan. (I blame my childhood obsession with The Baby-Sitters Club series. First person narration forever!) Third person keeps everything at such a distance, I feel, whereas first person feels more real and immediate.

For me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

I did feel like Ms. Bracken handles the never-ending racism Nicholas experiences very well, and in a delicate way. She never shies away from it and she makes it a point to drive home how exhausting it is to live with this every day of one’s life. Etta, who is white and has been fairly sheltered throughout her life, occasionally forgets this is an issue and is brought back to the harsh realization in real-time. It’s a little annoying but unfortunately realistic, I think.

If you enjoy time travel and can handle more complicated plot lines right now, this might be the book for you. For me, it was a good story, but the intricacies were a little too much right now.

Visit Alexandra Bracken’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.


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