Book Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

On the Island by Tracey Garvis-GravesTitle: On the Island
Series: On the Island, Book 1
Author: Tracey Garvis-Graves
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Sensuality Rating: Sensual
Source: bought
Published: September 2011

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.

*WARNING: There are some SPOILERS in my review. They are hidden behind SPOILER buttons but I am not sure how well they will work in RSS readers or in your email inbox.*


Why I Read this Book: Here’s the thing, I WASN’T going to read On the Island. Mainly for two reasons: (1) I am not a fan of May/December relationships; and (2) the teacher/student element is not one for me. Of those two concerns, the teacher/student element was the one really keeping me away from this book. Honestly, the first thing that came to mind after reading the synopsis for this book was Mary Kay Letourneau.

But so many readers have raved about this book and I wanted to find out why. So I sought out someone who had read the book to find out more about the teacher/student setup. What set my mind at ease was that Anna and T.J. never really had a teacher/student relationship because they got stranded on the island before ever having a single tutoring session. If they had had an established teacher/student relationship, I wouldn’t have been able to read the book.

What I Liked: The part of the premise that intrigued me the most was the ‘stranded on a deserted island’ aspect. I loved the movie Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks (whom I thought did a fantastic job at portraying a realistic perspective of being a castaway). The elements I loved from that movie were the same elements I loved about On the Island. The dire situations of survival were addressed head on: finding water, food, and shelter; surviving the elements; personal hygiene; and health issues, especially with the possibility of T.J.’s cancer returning. The author did such a superb job at giving the reader a realistic vision of being a castaway while, at the same time, keeping the storyline moving fluidly.

Anna established boundaries with T.J. early on. “I’m going to take a bath. You can never go down to the water when I’m down there. Are we clear on that?” This set me at ease. Anna was also pretty perceptive and recognized changes in T.J. as he got older and started making his feelings for her more obvious. Even after something develops between her and T.J., she realizes that if they ever get off the island and people found out about their relationship, there would be repercussions to face. Not everyone would be on board with their relationship, not only because of the age difference but because of the teacher/student role and related boundaries that accompany that relationship.

***The following may be considered a SPOILER so click the button and proceed reading at YOUR OWN RISK. And don't say I didn't warn you.***

I think what really helped make this book work for me, what with its taboo relationship, was the alternating point of view with first person narration. By reading from T.J.’s point of view, and to know what he was thinking and how he felt, really helped me grasp that everything was done because he wanted it and that everything was consensual. Plus, T.J. was mature for his age. Having survived cancer gave him a different outlook on life and a different set of goals and priorities.

Age difference aside, Anna and T.J. had such a tender and caring relationship. It was so sweet; I get chills thinking about it. There was such a deep connection between them that I don’t think either would have found with anyone else. These two characters were meant to be together.

***The following is a MAJOR SPOILER so click the button and proceed reading at YOUR OWN RISK. And don't say I didn't warn you!***

What I Didn’t Like: No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get over the huge age gap. It didn’t completely hinder my reading experience but it was constantly in the back of my mind. Anna, being 13 years older than T.J., is closer in age to T.J.’s mother (who was 9 years older than Anna).

***The following is a SPOILER so click the button and proceed reading at YOUR OWN RISK. And don't say I didn't warn you!***

Memorable Moment: Anna’s 33rd birthday. They’re stuck on the island so there’s not much in the way of presents yet T.J. gives her the best present ever. They made the best of the situation and it was a really sweet and memorable moment.

Overall Impression: Despite my problem with the age difference between the lead characters, On the Island was an incredible and emotionally moving story of love and survival; one that will long stay with me. I am so glad I took a risk and read this book. It was a memorable story and easily one of my favorite reads of the year. I can see myself revisiting this love story and these characters time and time again. MGM has optioned On the Island for a feature film and I really hope it happens.

Brianna’s Rating:
4 1/2 Frogs

Add to Goodreads  |  Buy on Amazon

About Brianna: Supermom by day, naughty reader by night. Addicted to chocolate, Twitter, her iPad, her Kindle, and 99¢ Kindle deals. You can follow Brianna on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram.


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.