On the Island: A Novel
Author: Tracey Garvis-Graves
Published: June 7, 2012 (reprint)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Reviewed by: Marq
summary from Goodreads
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.
Let me start off by saying: WOW. Just WOW. I did not expect to fall in love with the story and the characters.
On the Island isn't a book that I would pick up and start reading on my own. I saw some reviews by bloggers that I know and trust and figured I'd give the book a go. When I read the blurb, I hesitated. A romance between a 30 year old and a 16 year old? How can this author make this relationship NOT skeevy and icky? By writing a beautiful story about two people who fight for survival and find love in the least likely place.
Anna and T.J.'s relationship from teacher and student to lovers was written in such a wonderful way that it felt natural and that to have them keep their relationship platonic wouldn't work. Their relationship changes over a span of years. It's not immediate. It's a gradual change that takes place as T.J. transitions from boy to man. The entire time Anna does not cross that line until the line crossing became inevitable.
Once I started reading On the Island, I could not put it down until I'd finished the book. I was engrossed from page one. The writing is so vivid and detailed that I felt like I was on the island with T.J. and Anna. I was on the edge from start to finish. I had no idea how the book would end. T.J. and Anna had serious obstacles to face and I wasn't sure if they would be able to overcome them. Their journey and their struggle felt real and I was rooting for them from beginning to the end.
What really worked for me and kept me in the story was the changing POVs between Anna and T.J. Normally this would drive me crazy but it completely worked in this book. With this type of plot and the situation that the characters were in, as the reader, we had to know what was going on in their heads.
On the Island is one of my favorite reads this year. I am so glad that I decided to read this book. It was the best way to spend a Friday afternoon. I recommend you read this book. Do not let the premise deter you. It's a beautifully written story about finding love where you least expect it.