Ever since I read Caroline B. Cooney’s Both Sides of Time as a preteen, I’ve been hooked on time travel stories. Over the years, I’ve devoured any time travel book that I can, especially ones involving romances that exist out of space and time. And there have been a lot of good ones: Outlander, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Timeline, to name a few. So when I first heard of Alexandra Bracken’s young adult book Passenger (Disney-Hyperion, January 2016), I knew I had to get my hands on it.
As soon as I started reading, I was hooked. Passenger tells the story of teen Etta Spencer, a violin prodigy who’s about to deliver a solo concert in New York City. But instead, she unexpectedly hurdles through time to 1776 and lands on the ship of captain Nicholas Carter. Etta is no ordinary teen it turns out, and is actually the descendant of a time traveling family. With the help of Nicholas, she sets out on an adventure that takes her around the world (and through many different eras) in search of a powerful object called the astrolabe, which definitely can’t fall into the wrong hands.
Part of what makes time travel so fun is how the characters end up in times so different from their own. Usually, we only go to one other place with them — the past or the future — and stay there as they try and figure out how to live outside of their original time. But Passenger is a whirlwind of time periods, taking us from New York City in the 1700s to London during WWII to France in the 1800s and so much more. Bracken has also clearly done her research – each place is lovingly sketched out, showing us different perspectives and daily life in various centuries. Because Nicholas, Etta’s love interest, is African American, we also get a more nuanced look at how different time periods deal with prejudice and the realities of history, which gives a depth to the story that may have otherwise been lacking.
And speaking of Nicholas…one of the biggest strengths of Passenger is the slow burn romance that develops between the two time travelers. Etta is loyal and strong, while Nicholas is dealing with a lot of damage after years of living in a society that treats him as lesser. The two are there for each other from the start, and it’s a pleasure to watch them slowly fall in love.
After finishing Passenger, I’m left with a ton of questions (that cliffhanger!!!). How will Nicholas and Etta find each other again? How is Etta’s true heritage going to affect her future? Thankfully, the second book in Bracken’s series, Wayfarer (Disney-Hyperion, January 3, 2017) is out, so I won’t have to wait long for answers. In it, we find out more about the renegade time travelers, the Thorns, and more about Etta’s father. And, with any luck, Nicholas and Etta will find each other once again. But knowing Bracken, there will be a lot more angst for our couple to endure, as well as a lot of different places to explore throughout time. BRB, on my way to buy my copy right now!