To Read or Not to Read: Passenger and Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Alexandra Bracken departs from her dystopian, fantasy roots to bring readers an enthralling time travel adventure story. Passenger and Wayfarer weave an exciting scavenger hunt through time with a poignant journey of self-discovery for its main characters. Bracken’s duology is an enjoyable combination of heart, humor, romance, and historical fiction.
Passenger introduces us to Etta Spencer, a violin prodigy living in present day New York with her single mother, Rose. The story opens with Etta getting ready to perform at a fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, only for her to stumble upon a long held family secret. Etta is descended from a line of travelers that have the ability to time travel by crossing into passages. Etta’s first trip through time lands her in 1776 where she meets Nicholas Carter, a sailor/pirate/traveler. Together they embark on a quest to search for the elusive astrolabe. This device is being sought after by other travelers for its power to control passages. It’s quite literally a race against time to preserve history as we know it.
- This duology combines a fun adventure through time with compelling character focused arcs. The plot is engaging and thrilling, but the characters are the heart and soul of this story. The emotional investment in their journey is what makes the Passenger duology a worthwhile read.
- Bracken does a phenomenal job of world building and tying it into historical events. We get to experience a bit of the London Blitz, the American Revolution, and the downfall of Imperial Russia. She also addresses real life issues of the different time periods (racism, discrimination, prejudice, gender inequality) that give the story an authentic feel. The implications of Etta and Nicholas’ interracial relationship are also explored in the context of their respective time periods.
- The duology mainly centers on Etta and Nicholas and is told from their perspectives. They are joined by a diverse supporting cast of characters. The story includes African Americans, Asians, Muslims, and LGBT characters. Each character is wonderfully complex and layered with a sense of realness. The themes of family, friendship, partners, and love are explored through the varied character dynamics. As these relationships grow and evolve, so do the characters.
- The love story between the time-crossed pair of Etta and Nicholas is beautiful and sweet. Bracken gives them just enough swoon worthy, romantic moments to balance out the angst. You can’t help but root for this couple to find a way to defy time and be together.
- A minor critique of this dulogy is that the plot is a slow build. Bracken carefully builds the mystery of the astrolabe and reveals the deep complexities of Etta and Nicholas layer by layer. She takes her time telling the story and that creates some slow parts to the narrative. The pacing is more of a concern in the sequel Wayfarer. Passenger is all about hunting for the astrolabe. In contrast, Wayfarer is structured as two parallel plots that join together towards the end of the book. I found myself wanting the plot to move faster, so that I could get to the point where the two plots converge. Overall, the slow pacing didn’t pull my interest from either book. However, I can understand how this could be more of an issue for some readers.
The Passenger duology is the best YA time travel story I’ve read so far. It’s enjoyable, entertaining, and has a satisfying ending. If you are in the mood for a taking a trip through time with a pair of tenacious characters, then this is a must-read for you.
About the Pop-Culturalist Contributor, Amna
Amna is an elementary school teacher living in Texas who enjoys reading and writing about YA books in her free time. Her favorite authors include: Cassandra Clare, Sarah J. Mass, Sabaa Tahir, and Renee Ahdieh.