“Passenger” by Alexandra Bracken
3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
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.”
I have been having some trouble lately finding books to love where the characters feel as amazing and compelling as the plot they play into. Sadly, “Passenger,” despite its interesting time-travel and promising historical aspects, did not have the most engaging characters for me, and they felt a little lackluster to me while I was reading this book. “Passenger” was a good read, I just did not personally connect with this story’s characters, and I know I’m the odd girl out there in the reading and blogging spheres because of my feelings towards this book. *whispers* I’m sorry…
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I thought “Passenger” was a well-written book and that it had an interesting twist on time-travel, which I have not seen before in young adult fiction; it actually may not have been all that original, but for me it was a new take on this type of science fiction. I think that my main issue about this book was the fact that I did not feel like I knew the characters all that well by the end of it, and it was an odd feeling, reading and wanting to invest in the story, but not being able to because Etta and Nicholas felt so distant. I don’t really know how to describe in words the feeling of reading a book and falling into it, falling for its characters and world, and then coming back to the real world “changed.” I know it sounds weird, but I think that a lot of avid readers just understand the feeling of that meeting point with the book(s) that changed their perspectives from that point onward; it’s an amazing experience going into a book and discovering characters who you understand right away, or who you get to know along the way and learn to love! Books and their authors who are able to do that stay with me long after I’ve finished reading their words, and it’s as if I have a new arsenal of friends and knowledge after finishing a story that impacts me. But with “Passenger,” there was not much for me to get caught up in because I did not quite connect with the heart of the story, and I was left feeling like I did not know who the characters were by the end of this book.
Etta was a fine female character. I liked that she was a spunky but sweet heroine, and she reminded me at times of Anna from Wendy Higgins’s “Sweet Series,” although I liked Anna a bit more. Etta was a good heroine and she showed some great character growth during “Passenger,” but I did not find anything that made her a particularly impacting protagonist who would stick with me after I put this book back on a shelf. She was a good character with an enjoyable voice to read from in this book, and I appreciated the fact that she was a kind and sweet heroine, but once I walked away from reading this book, I felt like she just faded into the background with some of the other female characters. It made me sad that I personally did not connect with Etta, but I did find Nicholas’ perspective to be a bit more dynamic and interesting than Alexandra’s heroine.
Nicholas definitely had the more engaging perspective to read from, despite Etta’s still being pleasant. Nicholas had lived an extremely rough life and was still dealing with being under Ironwood’s tyrannical rule when Etta came into his life. His perspective, his past experiences, definitely made “Passenger” a more interesting book, even though I was not completely absorbed in it, and I loved the relationship he had with his adoptive father and Davy Chase, who was like a brother to him. I just wished for this character’s sake that Alexandra Bracken would have spent more time on Nicholas’s ship in her book because I think that it would have lent a lot to his character and helped me to get to know him better. I knew all of the facts about him and his past, but what I really wanted while reading “Passenger” was to see Nicholas in his own element for a longer period of time. The sea was a part of who Nicholas was and spending only a seventy-five to a hundred pages in that environment seemed to stunt this character’s potential for stealing my heart as a reader. Nicholas was a great character and I really liked him, but I felt like, despite all the facts I was given concerning him, I did not know him as well as I wanted to.
Another thing that I was not a fan of in”Passenger” was its timeline. I was adding up the days that Etta was with Nicholas during their adventure, and the most time it could have taken course over would be sixteen to seventeen days, if even that. Maybe I’m just nitpicking here, but I thought that Etta and Nicholas’s relationship escalated a little to quickly from non-existent to completely dedicated and in love over the course of about a hundred pages, which was equal to about a week together. It took until page 300 onward for Alexandra to have them explore the romance, and I would have really appreciated that passage of time book-wise if it had taken more than a week and a half for them to fall in love. I was into the romance building in those first three-quarters of this book, but I was sad that all of a sudden, after those last hundred pages, they were madly in love; it wasn’t insta-love, but it just came like a tidal wave, flooding the pages of this book in the last quarter of it, and I was not the hugest fan of that.
The other thing that kept me from rooting hardcore for their romance was that I did not feel like I knew Etta or Nicholas as much as I wanted to; I had all the facts about their personalities, their hopes and fears, but I didn’t feel like I knew them as a couple. The fast-moving romance of “The Broken Stars” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner took place over only two weeks, a shorter time frame than in “Passenger,” but I left that book feeling like I understood and knew who the characters were, together and apart, and that made a world of difference for me. The romance in “Passenger” was not technically insta-love, but I felt a bit unsettled by the feeling of knowing very little about these two characters after having spent so much time with them.
I hate being the person who does not care for a book that most people believe is perfection, not because I want to be agreeable to everyone, but because it seems like I’ve missed out on something. Maybe I did miss out on something, but for me, “Passenger” was not my favorite book. Alexandra Bracken is a talented writer, and I enjoyed the time-travel aspects of her book and the historical elements that were woven into it, but I just felt a little too distant from the characters to be completely invested in her book. I have a feeling that six months to a year down the road, I will pick “Passenger” back up to read and that I will end up enjoying it a lot more the second time around; there are just some book that are that way for me (“These Broken Stars” was actually like that for me), so it will be interesting to see something that time can only tell. For right now, though, I thought “Passenger” was well-written book that had an interesting take on time-travel and wonderful/heartbreaking historical elements that added a lot to the story, it just was not for me (for right now).