Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Members of the Vise Library were selected to review Passenger.  We received a copy of Alexandra Bracken's book for an honest review.

About the book:

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, his passenger, can find. In order to protect her, Nick 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.
This is one of my most anticipated books for 2016.  I was blown away to receive a copy of this book (THANK YOU DISNEY HYPERION, you seriously made my year!!)  But before I completely lose my mind over how much I enjoyed this book, let me give you a little background information about it.  Etta lives in present day New York.  For as long as she can remember, her mom (Rose) has traveled and always been distant towards Etta.  Etta feels  that shes doesn't really know anything about her mother.  Etta is a serious violin student and has thought that playing was always in her future.  One night when she is about to perform at a concert, Etta overhears Rose and Etta's violin teacher, Alice, fighting.  Etta thinks the argument is over something do with Etta playing the violin.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.  I won't give away too much of the story about what happens next, but Etta is forced through a time travel portal.  When she wakes, she is in the 18th Century and traveling on a ship.  On this ship, she meets Nicholas (who is from this time period).  Despite the difference between the centuries that they live in, they strike up a strong friendship.    Etta soon discovers that she comes from a family of time travelers and that there may be a reason that her mom kept the secret from her.  She also discovers that she was forced into this situation by a man named Cyrus Ironwood.  Etta's mom has hidden something from him and he is determined to use any means necessary to get it back.  He blackmails Etta and holds something over Nicholas' head that he has always wanted (not to mention that Nicholas must keep this a secret from Etta).  From this point, Etta and Nicholas go on a journey guided by clues Rose left for Etta through her childhood.  This adventure takes them through WWII London, 17th Century Cambodia, a wrong turn through 19th Century Paris and finally through the desert of Damascus.  Their journey also makes the bond between them grow stronger and the secret that Nicholas is keeping from Etta harder to keep.  

Now, for the gushing over this book.  IT WAS FANTASTIC! This is the first time traveling book that I have truly enjoyed.  It was smart and very well thought out.  I love books that are entertaining, but at the same time have messages within them.  For instance, Nicholas is not Caucasian.  He is constantly held back because of his skin color and no matter the century he is in: it is always a factor.  The whole premise of how these people are able to travel is so wonderfully planned, that it almost seems possible.  Traveling is not easy to do and there are stipulations that make the story more complex.  It isn't as easy as saying "Hey, let's travel to WWII London today!"  Instead there is almost a science to it and the characters have to go to one place to get to the others!  Some books are good in the fact that they make you empathize with the characters (like with Nicholas), but you can just feel like an outsider watching these characters.  Passenger makes you feel like you are there with them traveling through all of these wonderful places.  Bracken does an amazing job of describing all of the events and landscapes surrounding Nicholas and Etta.  Nothing about this book is predictable - I loved that!  For instance, Nicholas eventually tells Etta his secret and the secret doesn't tear them apart the way that you think it would.  I was cheering for these characters as they escaped danger or when certain things happened between them (the turning point when they spend he night in underground London may be one of my favorite scenes from a book - ever).  I also was devastated at the end of the book over something major that happens.  

You seriously need to get your hands on this book!  Also Alexandra Bracken will be visiting Parnassus Books in January, so make sure you keep your eyes out for that event (I know I will be there!).  If you can't make the signing, make sure you look out for this book to be added to our collection when the book releases (Jan. 5)! I could go on and on about how much I loved this book and how I can't wait for the sequel (seriously, the only bad thing about getting a book you have anticipated for awhile is waiting even longer for the sequel!).  So instead of rambling on and on about my Etta+Nicholas feels I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book.  This quote hit home to me because sometimes I feel like I am just trying to worry about next thing on my list instead of enjoying my time, at this moment.  Sooooooo, here you go:

 "...they had forgotten the most crucial part of life -- that it wasn't meant to be lived for the past, or even the future, but for each present moment." 
Buy the book:
       Barnes and Noble
      Parnassus Books

About the author:

Alexandra Bracken was born and raised in Arizona, but moved east to study at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. She recently relocated to New York City, where she lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books. You can visit her online at or on Twitter (@alexbracken).

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