Book Review: Passenger



Title: Passenger

Author:  Alexandra Bracken

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Rating:  3.5/5 stars


Book Depository

I received a review copy of this book from HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Passenger and I had a good start, but the slowpacing and directionless plot lost me towards the end. Nonetheless, I could recommend this book based on the merits of the well-developed characters alone.


Touted as one of the most awaited time travel release this year, it’s little wonder that Passenger struggled to live up to immense expectations – such is the curse of a hyped book. The mythology behind the time travel is vague, with protagonists leaping through wrinkles in time that allow them to transcend spatial temporal boundaries. There are no apparent rules which dictates where the portal are or where they may lead. Our leads haphazardly uses musical notes to locate these wrinkles in the fabric of the universe – poetic, yet admittedly unpractical.

“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.”

The time traveling aspect is also robbed of any significance when paradoxes are hand waved aside by convenient rules. We are told when someone alters the course of events, they become stranded in that timeline, effectively dead to their current universe. Although there are hints this will be explored in future installments, for a 400+ pages novel, Passenger is short on even basic explanations. Instead, the time travel is treated as a wish fulfilment vacation bonanza. Our heroes traipse through beautiful places and significant historical events: luscious and undiscovered Cambodia, the once grand Damascus, London and Paris during WWII… apparently portals do not exist in mundane locations.

On the one hand, this whirlwind adventure allowed for some gorgeous settings. However, on the other, it feels superfluous – with some scenes seeming to come out of someone’s Pinterest dream vacation rather than adding anything to the plot. Etta and Nicholas don’t seem to achieve much at numerous of these locations (in Cambodia, they literally encounter a tiger and then leave). The plot thus became undisciplined and aimless. A critical flaw, when you compound it with the already slow and burdening pacing. The characters, while endearing, falters the carry the book on their own.

“What a privilege it was to never feel like you had to take stock of your surroundings, or gauge everyone’s reactions to the color of your skin.”

Despite its flaws, I had some reasons to enjoy Passenger. First and foremost: Etta Spencer. I knew it was love the moment we met. Raised in 21st century New York, Etta is a fiery and determined violinist – not afraid to voice her opinions. I liked that she didn’t immediately become awesome at everything, and was left to floundered and survive on guts and wits alone when she got dropped into the time travel shennanigans. I especially loved her scenes with the pirate crew during her time in the Atlantic ocean – it was so charming! Although I did quickly grow weary of her constant 21st century sensibilities being shocked by the racism and sexism of the time. Once or twice, it might have highlighted the privileges of our era – but when I see it every second page, it just becomes repetitive.

“They won’t expect it from you,” she continued, “and, fool that I am, I didn’t either. Good for you. I like a fighter. But it won’t do you much good against me.”

Another thing I enjoyed was the complex relationship between Etta and Sophia. I know a few of my blogging friends were aghast at the my suggestion that I shipped them – and advised that I would change my mind by the end of the novel. Regardless, I still found these two incredibly interesting, theirs is a dynamic I don’t often see in fiction. Sure, they may not be on the best terms – but they had a grudging respect for one another. They’re both strong in their own ways, they interactions have little relations to the main male protagonist. So, yes, Sophia may be antagonistic, but I loved her scenes with Etta.

“She didn’t need a protector or a rescuer. But she did need him.”

The romance in this book was sweet and earnest, though I personally felt their relationship advanced to the ‘love’ stage far too fast. By the end of the book, the two were definitely 100% devoted, to the point of risking their lives for one another. Although they shared many sweet moment, I can’t help but think this happened way too quickly – although admittedly most of the 400+ pages were centred on their romance. They did have chemistry, though – and it’s one of those rarer romance where both are nice, decent people. Nicholas is one of those YA heroes you would approve your daughter dating in real life.

As mentioned above, a lot of my frustration with Passenger was in the pacing. Although it was off to a rollicking start with pirate ship adventures, and we quickly met the villain of the piece – the plot slowed right down once Etta started time traveling in earnest. I took over a week finishing this book, because the last 300 pages held very little tension and momentum. Nonetheless, the book did end with a couple of action filled chapters, and an intriguing cliffhanger. I am still eager to check out Wayfarer when he comes out next year.


What has your experiences been like with this year’s crop of time travel fiction? Love them? Hate them?  Please share your recs below :D!

35 thoughts on “Book Review: Passenger

  1. Woah I now ship Sophia and Etta now. THIS IS A GREAT REALIZATION AND I LIKE IT. Thank you for enlightening me Aentee.

    As for the pacing, I also had a really hard time with it. I really enjoyed Etta’s love for the violin, along with her personality, however I felt like the book really dragged on until maybe 3/4s of the way in? And as you said, the time traveling was a little random, and I didn’t really get the sense of tension until maybe the end of the book?

    So yep, and this also took me more than a week to read! Do you think you will read the sequel or no?


  2. Great review! I haven’t read this one yet, and while I almost bought it several times, I never did. Now I don’t know if it’ll be my thing…I’m bummed about the slow pacing and the apparent insta-love that seems to be going on. It’s a bummer, this book had so much hype surrounding it.



    *okay continues to read* (Hi, Aentee!!!!!!!! I missed reading your blog so much – okay before I digress I should probs continue reading)

    Okay, I misread. It said Time Travel. LOL. Still sounds awesome though. Okay, carry on.

    “Our leads haphazardly uses musical notes to locate these wrinkles in the fabric of the universe – poetic, yet admittedly unpractical.” I like how you think.

    “Instead, the time travel is treated as a wish fulfilment vacation bonanza. (WHERE CAN I SIGN UP) Our heroes traipse through beautiful places and significant historical events: luscious and undiscovered Cambodia, the once grand Damascus, London and Paris during WWII… apparently portals do not exist in mundane locations. (Much Sass, Much Like.)” Have I told you I miss your reviews??? You’ve been improving!!

    I find Etta/Sophie really interesting now!! Kinda reminds me of evil!Zuko/Aang from Avatar somehow and I miss them.

    I actually just had a pretty meh book with similar pacing problem buuuuut who knows? The travel and Etta/Sophie thing might help me??? But all this time I still hiss at series though XD

    – Atiqah (Tee) –

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg where have you been Nurul I have missed you muchly!! Also you mentioned Zuko and Aang which makes me love you more because ATLA was the best!! Yeah this book had some merits but it was a bit of a snooze fest. I feel I am getting more harder to please in my old age ahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I KNOW. I MISSED YOU TOO. T-T All the nights I want to spend poring over your blog was sadly used to do reports after reports after reports. My last semester I didn’t read a lot AND THAT MAKES IT DOUBLY SAD FOR ME. I need my usual weekly Aentee reads.

        YES (I almost didn’t want to add ATLA bUT IM GLAD I DID) YAY TO YOU LOVING ATLA TOO!!!!!!!!!

        Everyone is getting older in the bookworm community. It happens. Someday we might only resort to reading the news. *Shudders* Oh who are we kidding in 30 years I will be listening to fantasy audio books.


  4. I’ve actually been really looking forward to this and just waiting for it to come in at my library. While this isn’t the glowing review I hoped for, I still would like to check it out – but your warnings about the slow pacing and the too-fast romance will keep my expectations in check. A wonderful and balanced review, thank you! Now I patiently wait for a copy 🙂


  5. Ahh, I cannot stand it when there are no clear rules or system. One of the most interesting aspects of time travel books imo is the science fiction aspect and how it attempted to explain travel without breaking the time-place continuum. On the other hand, the characters and the relationships sound like something I’d love to read so… I’m not sure whether I would read it or not.
    Nice review though, I like how you describe it as Pinterest dream vacation. Hahaha. Don’t we all.


  6. Awww I am actually looking forward to this book because of the time travel stuff but alas, it wasn’t what we expected it to be. It’s hard to adore a fantasy book if there are lots of loopholes on its world-building. I loved Predestination (idk if you’ve watched that but probably you did because it’s Australian) and all other movies about time-hopping and I’m really hoping I’d see the same excitement on this book. Guess I shouldn’t expect more from it then when I read it. Thanks for the honest review, Aentee 😀


  7. I’ve heard the same thing from a few of my blogger friends. It’s a bummer that pacing is an issue along with the plot. But nonetheless, the characters sound promising. I definitely want to give this one a try soon enough. Great review Aentee! 🙂


  8. Great review, Aentee! I have already read 3 YA time-travel novels this year (Into the Dim, The Girl from Everywhere, Until We Meet Again) and I hated the firts one and DNFied the other too 😦 Paasenger is actually the only one I haven’t read yet, but I have been burnt so much by this sub-genre in last couple of weeks that I feel like giving up on it altogether…


  9. So need this in my life, regardless of superfluous settings HAHA. I’m a big fan of beautiful places so that should be fun (and God knows I talk about them too much in my own writing). Although given how much hype this has received, I’m surprised by how much I didn’t know about this book from reading your review…like I didn’t even know the names Nicholas and Etta.

    What am I even doing.


  10. Nice in-depth review of Passenger! Love the illustration you created – very pretty! ❤ There has been so much hype surrounding this book, sounds like a interesting read about time travelling and character development. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂


  11. This one was a struggle-fest for me. I read about 100 pages and had to back and re-read again because I realized I had gotten out of the book. It didn’t help, so I ended up just DNFing. The crazy hype was one of my reasons for not loving it too. And that slowwwwwwww pace. I feel like some of the scenes were unnecessary. I’m with you on the romance too. It was too quick for me. And haha! I think i may have liked Sophia more than I did Nicholas, so I can see why you ship them! 😉
    I’m glad you enjoyed parts of it though. I guess that’s better than hating the book.
    Lovely review, Aentee! And that graphic!! ❤


  12. Beautiful review, Aentee! I feel like time travel is such a saturated genre these days, and it’s so hard to fathom something that doesn’t even exist (yet at least? I don’t know xD). Bracken’s books constantly have pacing issues because of her overly descriptive nature, it’s something I’m used to, so it didn’t affect me as much. I really liked Sophie and Etta’s relationship too. I wish those two spent more of the book together. I appreciate that Bracken touched on racism and sexism, but I think there’s still more to be said. The actual time traveling (never mind the unrealistic and slightly perplexing explanations) was absorbing, and I loved visiting the different eras and places. Great review ❤

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books


  13. Agh, good solid plots that don’t lag are like one of my top needs for a book, so I’m liiiittle bit worried here. BUT YOU SAID PIRATES. I NEED THE PIRATES. I have it on reserve at the library, so I’m glad about that. XD I won’t have to worry if I don’t like it or not, hehe.


  14. I honestly don’t think I’ll read this. I like complex or at least well explained time-travel, and I hate when the paradoxes are left aside, ignored. Great review, though. Ooh, if you’re into time-travel books, I can recommend Stephen King’s 11/22/63. That one is certainly complex and there’s also a romance I rooted for. It was so good. 🙂


  15. Great review! I agree with a lot of your points especially the part about the locations seeming like someone’s dream vacation from Pinterest LOL I wish Bracken spent more detailed time with each location so I felt like I could know it better and the relationship did develop way too quickly for my tastes so when they started to say sweet nothings to each other, I would be rolling my eyes lol


  16. Hey nice review.. I actually liked the way Nicholas and Etta’s relationship progressed… I agree with about the book’s pace in the second half though.. Even I struggled with it at times..
    I haven’t read much time travel fiction.. So I really don’t have too many reference points to compare this to.. But I did enjoy the time travel concepts and rules in this book though it got confusing at times ..

    And hehe .. Sophia is awesome .. She is snappy and “mean” in an interesting way.. Not the usual distant brooding way..


  17. Yeah, my main issue with Passenger was definitely the pacing! I did also get a bit annoyed by the constant 21st century shock of racism, etc., though I didn’t realise it until now! Glad you still enjoyed this one and it wasn’t a complete flop for you! 🙂


  18. It feels like all the time travel releases are coming out in early 2016 XD Plus all the covers with a bottle and/or a ship on it XD XD And ooh, a violinist! That sounds quite intriguing — although slow pacing is my pet peeve (not that I’ve learned to write pacing properly, but ah well), so perhaps Passenger isn’t quite for me.


  19. I actually just picked this up yesterday, but I’ve just started it so I’m not sure what to expect. I’m glad everyone’s warned me about the pacing though, so I’ll brace myself for that. It’s a shame the time travel isn’t explained too well too, particularly when it kind of overcomplicates things. Thanks for the detailed review Aentee!


  20. This is one of those books I’d be tempted to get just for the cover, but I really don’t think it’s for me. Time travel books bother me, especially when there are no explanations and problems are just waved away. I also don’t like to feel like I’m aimlessly wandering through a book and read a bunch of scenes that have no significance :-/ Great review! Just not the book for me.


  21. That was my main criticism too Aentee – it was so wordy, which caused the pacing to be excruciatingly slow. Glad I’m not the only one who felt that way. Nonetheless, the settings and the romance were amazing. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤


  22. ‘…apparently portals don’t exist in mundane locations.’ Haha! Love it!

    I haven’t read this one, but nothing about is especially grabs me. I’m kind of over books where the adventure seems to facilitate the romance rather than the other way around. Plus there’s something about this whole time travel craze that hasn’t really grabbed me.


  23. I had the exact same issues Aentee, for a book so lengthy, it really didn’t delve into the world building beyond the superficial details did it. The first half was so incredibly slow. For me the adventure took far too long to get too so when it did start to pick up, it felt a little rushed. I loved Etta and Nicholas separately, but felt they lost their own identities a little together and the romance needed more intensity and passion, seeing how forbidden it was for the era. I really hope the next book blows this one out of the water. Fingers crossed. Awesome review Aentee and so glad you were still able to enjoy it ❤


  24. I keep going back and forth with this one. After reading your review, I think I am going to put a hold on it. Even though I like the sound of the time travel and such, I have been struggling with YA lately, and I don’t think I am in the right frame of mind for this one. Thanks for the honest review.


  25. I can’t handle slow pacing! Even if the book is good, the slow pacing will kill it for me. I’m basically like a child with the span attention of a 5 year old so I need something to grab and keep my attention. I haven’t heard the best reviews for this, which is a shame considering how hyped it was. I’m glad you still liked it but I’m passing on this one 🙂


  26. This was such a wonderful review! I haven’t read Passenger yet but it is on my TBR 🙂 I heard mixed things about it though so I must admit that my excitement is significantly less than it was before…


  27. Great review! I don’t know whether I want to pick up Passenger because of all of the mixed reviews 😛 It is on my TBR though~


  28. I noticed the strange pacing but I enjoyed the romance so much that I didn’t mind the pacing too much. The romance kinda filled the blanks for me 😀 But I did think the first 150ish pages to be kinda boring and slow because they were just sailing around on a ship and getting all insta-lovey. And the ending was just a fast-paced info-dump from Etta’s mum. Besides that, I didn’t have very many complaints though I completely see what you mean about them travelling to places that meant very little to the plot. What was with that 3 second stop in Paris?! I’m keen to see what will happen in Wayfarer though and how Alex Bracken wraps up the duology.


  29. I felt the same about Passenger! My review was lower, though, haha. They go to Paris, eat some bread, leave. They never stayed long in one place and I’d liked the pirate crew, but they were tossed aside. I thought Nicholas was adorable, but the book is so unnecessarily long. That could just be me, acting whiny, though. Sweet review, Aentee! ❤


  30. Ohhh. I really don’t know if I’m going to end up reading this book. I’ve read a few reviews, and none of them are glowing.

    The way you described the time travel aspect of this book seems weird. I mean, musical notes to find the wrinkles in time? And no explanation for it? I think I would be thoroughly disbelieving and annoyed by that aspect.

    LOL at the fact that they only go to exciting and adventurous places when they time travel. Like boring and normal things and places don’t exist in the past. That seems to me like a plot device for ~action~.

    Instalove is something I can’t really handle sometimes, so the fact that they’re at the love and die for you stage by the end of the book has me cringing a bit D:

    Lovely review, dear ❤


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