Passenger by Alexandra Bracken Review: Can I Time Travel the Kissing?

March 18, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken Review: Can I Time Travel the Kissing?Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Published by HarperCollins Australia on January 5th 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
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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

When the whole blogosphere tells me that I will love a book, I tend to approach it with wariness. That’s what happened with Passenger – with the the hype leading me to be extremely wary about the book.

The start of Passenger is exciting and fast paced, but it slows down to a staggering pace as Etta starts time travelling. We learn about the Ironwood family history and their time travelling ability, and their influence and power over the rest of the time travellers. They want Etta to retrieve a rare artifact, while sending Nicholas with her for security. They’re given a 1 month deadline to retrieve the artifact.

This is where it started to get interesting, as Etta and Nicholas will time travel to a number of exotic locations: Paris during WWII, London’s revolutionary period, Angkor in Cambodia – they’ll cross cities, deserts, caves and ocean. From their clothing, food, language and mannerisms, to religion, women’s rights and the political and social ideology of the time, it was fascinating learning about a variety of different eras.

And Etta, don’t forget – the truly remarkable thing about your life is that you’re not bound to live it straight forward like the rest of us.

I also liked the way that time travel was handled, conveniently solving problems with time travel. You can only travel to the same day that it is, so you can’t go back and change the past. You also can’t overlap places where you’ve been in the past, to prevent the timeline from getting messed up. Temporal passages will be linked to a particular time and place, and you can only travel to certain periods if you can find those passages. Just because you’re a time traveller, doesn’t mean you’re invincible, which is why Passenger made a lot of sense.

Passenger is a slow book however; there were parts of it that were extremely tedious and drawn out. The book feels too long, pampered with unnecessary detail over inane things that don’t seem to make an impact to the actual story. We’re given long passages about the songs that Etta chooses to play, the detail of Nicholas’s lips, and the back story of every single pirate on the ship. Instead of focusing on their mission (that has a time limit), much of the story will be circled around their romance and why it’s forbidden. There’ll be pages and pages of internal monologue debating on whether each of them should act on their feelings or not. Luckily, you’re rewarded with some pretty epic kissing scenes, which I didn’t care for too much but I know Aila and Jenna enjoyed.

He would not surrender to the disaster of loving her. In time, the pain would pass.

While I liked the idea of Etta and Nicholas as a couple, being from different timelines and having a cross cultural relationship (Nicholas is black), I didn’t really connect to them as a couple. Their character development felt kind of bland, with Etta as a violin prodigy who is determined to save her ‘grandmother’, and Nicholas as a wannabe pirate who wants to protect her. Although we get both of their point of views, I didn’t really feel any emotion or connection between them. Even when there were emotional things happening in the story – it was delivered in a disconnected and clinical manner.

The ending also felt really rushed, with twists delivered without much explanation. They were quite hard to believe, especially given how slow the rest of the book was.


Whether you enjoy Passenger or not, will depend on how much you enjoy detailed family history and the historical accounts of each place. Although I couldn’t connect with the characters or the romance, I liked the way the time travel was handled and the research put into each time period and place.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Thanks HarperCollins Australia for sending me this book for review! 


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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50 responses to “Passenger by Alexandra Bracken Review: Can I Time Travel the Kissing?

  1. I love the cover for this one, but I am not sure if I will enjoy it and yes the hype tends to make me wary as well. The learning about different time periods does sound interesting, although I am not a fan of time travel in books in general. It's good to hear that the time travel made sense and they made some sensible world building rules. That's too bad it's so slow though and it seems like there are a lot of details that could've been skipped as they don't add much to the story. I do like a slow build-up for romances though, so I like the sound of that, but it does need to fit in with the story and doesn't distract from the story. Great review!
    My recent post Sunday Post #171

    • Yeah, so many people didn't really enjoy it! The time travel was interesting but unfortunately this one was a bit slow and draggy. It's more of a slow setting based book I guess. Thanks Lola!

    Like, idk. My shipper heart just got into the relationship like *SNAP*


    But again, I AM a hopelessly hopeless romantic, so that might be why, aha. 😛 Either way, awesome review! Boo at hype, but yay at lots o' research!

  3. I'm sorry to hear you weren't a big fan of this one, but I can definitely understand why. Bracken's writing is great, but she does tend to get carried away with the descriptions. I found myself skimming as I read. I liked the romance, but I felt a bit of a disconnect too. I really liked the concept of time travel and the direction that Bracken took it in. The ending was rushed, but I still can't wait to see what happens next!

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books
    My recent post A Typical Blogging Day for Rachel

    • Yeah, I think skimming had to happen in this case too! The time travel concept was definitely interesting and that cliffhanger!

  4. Ohhh, I ma really not hearing every good things about this book on the whole >.< Which sucks because I LOVE time travel! I might give this one a go anyway, just because of that. Although the fact that there isn't much of an emotional connection to the characters scares me – as well as unnecessary details. I am all for lovely kissies, but not when it's interspersed with too much angst. I'm sorry this one wasn't as amazing as you had been told, Jeannie! But I'm glad you liked it overall <3
    My recent post My Current Binge

    • I know, everyone seemed to RAVE about it at the start, but yeah it was just slow and draggy due to all that detail. Thanks lovely!

  5. I did love the time travel aspect of this, but I didn't love it as much as everyone else. I guess I didn't really connect to the characters? Honestly I feel like this needs a reread from me because I really remember nothing. However, it was just sooooo slow. I know I spent 2 weeks on this book 😛

    Awesome review Jeann! I'm glad I'm not the only black sheep!
    My recent post ARC Review: The Serpent King

  6. I've seen very mixed reviews of this one, and I'm feeling very conflicted about reading it… I always have that curiosity when the whole entire blogosphere is raving about a book, but I feel like I'd probably get bored pretty quickly if the pacing is as slow as you've described it as being?? I'm definitely going to need to sit on this a while longer.

    Thanks for such a great review!

  7. Pili

    I read Passenger early enough to avoid most of the expectations that the hype might have otherwise given me. I really enjoyed both the time travelling and the family drama, and I must say that I started shipping Etta and Nick pretty early too!
    My recent post Happy St Paddy's Day!!

    • I know, it is incredibly slow but I think reading it on public transport will improve the experience – as you said, less distractions lol!

  8. It seems like now that the hypes has kind of dwindles there's a bit more of a mixed reaction to this book. I've still not read Passenger but I plan to but I think now my expectations aren't as sky high. I'm still intrigued by the book and I like that the time traveling is well fleshed and it doesn't seem overly complicated. I can see myself struggling a bit with the detailed family history and all the detail of Nicholas’s lips haha. However, I'm still excited to read the book and I'll be sure to power through the slow pace.
    My recent post TV Talk: Mr. Robot

  9. Hmmm, I am unsure about this one. I am not sure if I am going to love it or be slightly bored by it. I get a little bit tired of detailed family history. I don't know, I am very torn about this. I own it, so I will definitely get to it but I probably won't have it super high on my list.

  10. It's funny, because when hype begins to pick up, I'm normally quite interested in reading a book, but then once it wears off and there isn't a steady trickle of positive reviews, I often forget about it. Passenger is actually one of those for me and I only just remembered its existence! Although I don't think it's *quite* for me … slow pace is one of my pet peeves, and will they/won't they relationships bug me a lot. Thanks for the review, Jeann!
    My recent post Can there be TOO MUCH diversity in one book? (I say … maybe.) Also, not the point.

    • I know what you mean! Although sometimes the hype puts me off the book because I don't want to be disappointed. Thanks for the lovely comment, Alyssa!

  11. Bieke (Nelly B.)

    I'm very hesitant about this one because I haven't read any overwhelmingly positive reviews of it yet, but it sounds good and the cover is SOH PRETTEH so I'll give it a shot if I ever get my hands on a copy.

    • If you end up picking it up, I'd be keen to hear your thoughts on it Jade. There were parts I liked and disliked, but character connection is a major thing for me.

  12. My thoughts exactly Jeann! The pacing was just so slow because of how wordy it was, which as a result made it a bit difficult to connect to or care about the characters. It's a shame, because, like you said, the premise and the time-travel aspects were absolutely amazing. 🙁 Sorry to hear you were a bit disappointed about this as well, but thanks for sharing your thoughts! <3

    • Fair enough Cyn, I know looking at my GR comments I was really excited at the start then it got more and more disappointing lol. Thanks lovely!

  13. There's just been too many meh-reviews for this one that I can't justify picking up a copy. I know she's a popular author, but I've been terribly disappointed with her first series. I'm still not sold. :/

    • I know, it's such a shame because there was so much hype to begin with! I have her first series to read, but I'm not sure when.

  14. I thought this would be one that I absolutely LOVE, Jeann, but it fell flat for me. I struggled with lots in the book, but especially the characters. I think at this point, I'm just not a fan of time travel stories. I agree with you on the pacing. It definitely slowed down significantly. I'm glad you enjoyed the time travel aspect, however. I hope the characters and the romance will be much better for you with the sequel!
    Lovely review, Jeann!
    My recent post Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alywn Hamilton

    • I know, I thought so too but when the reviews started rolling in I was wary! The characters were extremely difficult to connect to. I love time travel stories thankfully so that helped too. Thanks Nick! <3

  15. lekeishathebooknerd

    I think the historical aspects are what made me love this book. I think historical is about the only genre that I can tolerate long descriptions. I also like Etta and Nicholas a lot, so that helped. That ending didn't satisfy me, and I'm ready to read the next book. Great review!
    My recent post Magic Breaks – Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

    • I know, it sounds like it's a love or hate type of book because of the slow detail in it and the focal romance! Thank you Amanda! <3

  16. corrallingbooks

    Mm yeah – I felt the same about Passenger! I actually DNF'ed because I really couldn't get into the characters :/ But the timetravel was definitely handled really well – I loved that aspect! 🙂

  17. I have this out from the library and I'm definitely worried. XD I've heard from so many reviews that it's super slow….and, gah, I have a short attentions span?!? But slow books always turn me off, sadly. D: ANYWAY I'M PROCRASTINATING IT….but hopefully I'll start soon. 😛 I do like the thought of Etta playing violin though! 😀 There aren't enough musical books. :')

    • Ohhhh I'm really keen to hear your thoughts actually Cait! I can't wait to see whether you love/hate it because it seems to be that sort of book!

  18. Great review!
    I thought this book was so incredibly slow, which made it take me like 2 weeks to read. There was so much information being thrown at you and I feel like it could have been at least 70 pages shorter than it was.
    Sometimes I also felt like the relationship between Etta and Nicholas was kind of forced, like: look how many feeling I have for you, look we are kissing AGAIN while we actually should be spending time finding that artifact…
    I'm not sure I want to read the next book :/

    ~ Amber from
    My recent post Book News

    • Thanks Amber! It was definitely a really slow book with so much detail! I did feel it was forced and it took away from the main part of the story unfortunately. Ahhh, that's a shame but I totally understand why!

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