Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: On the Island

On the Island
Tracey Garvis-Graves
Contemporary Romance
Self Published
September 3, 2011

*Some Spoilers*

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.

I downloaded this book back in March when it was listed for 0.99 on Kindle not realizing at the time how it would take off and become a best selling novel.   I simply thought the premise was interesting, had read some positive reviews and at 0.99 it was worth a try.   But then I forgot about it.  Oops.  Fast forward a few months and On the Island is on the New York Times bestseller list and I decided to find out what the fuss is all about.

The premise isn't new.  People stranded on a deserted island.  The plane crashes and Anna and T.J. survive long enough to make it to the island.  It's on the island that their relationship turns from teacher and student to two adults, neither knowing if they will ever see their families again.  One thing I will say about this book - it makes you think! 

Neither Anna or T.J. have any type of survival training but they use common sense and what they've learned in their lives to make their island as safe a place as possible.  As the weeks turn to months the relationship changes as Anna begins to look at T.J. not as someone she needs to take care, as she is the adult, but to someone she can rely on the way she would another adult.  T.J. begins to look at Anna as more than just his teacher.  He doesn't see her as someone old enough to be his much older sister but as the woman who has become his close friend whom he is also attracted to. 

The time Anna and T.J. spend on the island is a study in what to do and what not to do when stranded on a deserted island with little chance for rescue.  They know, as the time passes, that their chances of rescue are disappearing.  I think it's part of that mindset that helps them think in terms beyond teacher and student to become two adults who may not ever see another soul.  There is the reality that they are stuck on the island together for the rest of their lives.  Why not seek comfort in the person who has become your best friend? 

For those that are wondering, T.J. is almost 19 when he and Anna become intimate.  So while in the real world this may still be looked down on but it is not illegal.  I will say he was a very mature 19 given everything he had been through from the cancer to the plane crash.  T.J.'s maturity came through and left me forgetting his age and focusing more on his abilities.  He takes the initiative when needed and doesn't let his youth hold him back or use it as an excuse for not doing his share.  I found I liked T.J. and had a lot of respect for him by the end of the book. 

The way both Anna and T.J. saw their relationship and romance shows how they both had very different viewpoints.  It makes sense since Anna is 14 years older than T.J. and has more experience when it comes to relationships.  I do think having survived cancer and at such a young age gave T.J. the perspective to not care so much what others thought of him.  He knew what he wanted, Anna, and he didn't care what society thought even if that society was thousands of miles away. 

Anna had more concerns about who their family and friends would react when/if they were rescued.  She took those concerns with her when they were rescued but she didn't dismiss T.J. feelings which I thought showed how much she did love him.  It wasn't just a matter of location and being the only ones there on the island, Anna really came to love the man T.J. had become. 

The way the story was handled after Anna and T.J. are rescued had a number of fairly plausible occurrences.  There were some instances of coincidences and self-sacrifice that I found somewhat unbelievable but it didn't take away from the impact of the story. 

Another thing about this book is it has stayed with me.  It has been over a week since I finished reading On the Island but it's impact is still strong and I had no problem remembering many of the details without refering to my notes.  That surprised me since my memory isn't what it use to be and I often find myself referring to my notes. 

On the Island does provide an interesting, often intense look at human nature.  It shows the courage it takes to not only survive catastrophes but the aftermath when life tries to return to normal.  

Rating:  B+


  1. I just read this one yesterday and really enjoyed it. Which surprised me for some reason..I didn't expect to adore their romance they way I did.

    Once they made it back to land - I didn't love those scenes as much as on the island..but I loved the epilogue :) I'm glad I read it.

  2. Mandi ~ Because of all the recent hype, I was surprised at how much I liked it.

    Yes, I thought the epilogue was a perfect ending!

  3. Leslie, I'm seeing this book all over the place! It's getting such great reviews too... but I'm still a bit on the fence about it. That age difference is SO vast, and he's so young, I don't know if I'm going to buy this romance? I don't know... :(

  4. Hils ~ Have you ever had a friend who's 20 or so but is more mature than a friend who's 30? T.J. is like that. You tend to forget the age difference unless it's mentioned.

  5. Huh, I have not heard of this book at all. Sounds good, but just not my style. However, I'm curious. How does it end? Are they still together? LOL