On the Island
by Tracey Garvis-Graves
Publication Date: October 11, 2011
Source: Won from author twitter giveaway
When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments - instead of his friends.
Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island.
Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man. (from Goodreads)
I hadn't planned on reviewing On the Island. I thought that it would be a quick, summer read - another book in my ever growing TBR pile that I would read and then move on from. But after finishing it at 5 a.m. this morning because I just could not put it down (thank goodness I'm on vacation), I can't stop thinking about it. I had a 4 hour car ride today and it occupied my thoughts the entire time.
T.J. and Anna share their own experiences of living and surviving on the island in alternating chapters. This method of story-telling propelled the story ahead in a way that let me know so much about both characters - their thoughts, fears, desires. At times, the voices of both characters were similar in that there wasn't much that distinguished T.J.'s voice (teen male) from Anna's (31 yr old female). A few times, I would refer to the chapter heading to learn who the speaker was supposed to be. This wasn't a distraction and didn't take away from the story in any way. T.J. did sound a bit older than a 16 or 17 year old, but after learning about his struggle with cancer and some life-altering decisions that he made during that time, it is understandable that he sounded older beyond his years. But there are instances, and many of them that remind, me that he is a teenager full of hormones and angst. He is a character who any reader could easily fall in love with!
Going into the novel, I really didn't question the relationship that was destined to develop between Anna and T.J. I just wanted to know how it was all going to play out so that it didn't feel inappropriate. Let me just say author was very smart about how she developed their relationship. I don't want to give anything away because it is crucial to the story development, but I'll admit that I thought it would've happened sooner than it did and I actually wanted it to happen sooner. There is a lot of genuine love and concern between Anna and T.J. and it is easy to believe that they were brought together by more than mere circumstance.
As much as I loved the characters and their story, I cannot say that the book doesn't have it's flaws. A few times when Anna and T.J. were in need of something for survival and even their existence, they would happen upon them easily. And there is an incident involving a shark that I found to be unrealistic, not impossible, but I wasn't buying it. Still, these minor faults (as I see them) didn't take away the enjoyment I had while reading On the Island.
This story was very satisfying. I loved it. I understand the hype about it and highly recommend it. I would warn readers that they should start it early in the day because if not, they will be reading it in the wee hours of the morning.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author by way of a twitter giveaway. A review was not requested. This review is based on the self-published edition of On the Island. The book has since been published by Penguin. I was not compensated for providing a review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.