Saturday, July 14, 2012

REVIEW: On The Island by Tracy Garvis Graves

On the Island
Title: On the Island
Author:  Tracey Garvis Graves
Pages:  306
Publisher:  Self Published (Now republished by Penguin)
Date Published:  September 3, 2011
Format:  ebook
Source:  Bought
Buy It:   Amazon OR B&N

*This is the self published book cover, which is the edition I bought.  To see the new cover visit Amazon or B&N.
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.

Fave Quote:
 “I don't fit in your world."
"Neither do I," he said, his expression tender yet resolute. "So let's make our own. We've done it before.” 

This book was absolutely wonderful.  I'm not sure I can properly review it and completely express just how much I loved On the Island.  When I first read the synopsis I was skeptical.  A romance between a thirty-something teacher and her sixteen year old student is sketchy!  After reading some of the reviews I decided to give it try, and I am so glad I did.  This story managed to draw me in from the very first page, and the adventures and catastrophes (think monsoons and sharks)  kept me completely enthralled.

Anna is thirty years old when she takes a summer job as a tutor for a family spending their summer in Maldives.  She has been in a stagnant relationship for eight years with a man that shows no signs of planning to commit.  She thinks the opportunity to spend the summer vacation on a tropical island is just what she needs to re-evaluate her life.  T.J. is sixteen years old and has been fighting cancer for the past three years.  He's in remission and all he wants is to spend the summer with his friends.  Going on vacation with his family and working with a tutor all summer is not what he had in mind.  When his parents leave for Maldives they agree to let him stay behind with a friend for a week and plan for him to travel to meet them with Anna.  When the pilot of the sea plane has a heart attack and they crash land in the ocean T.J. manages to get them both to a nearby island.  At first they assume a rescue plane will be coming for them, but the plane never comes.  Anna and T.J. quickly realize they are going to have to figure out how to survive if they ever want to see their families again.

On the Island is written in alternating points of view so you really get to see into the personality of both Anna and T.J.  Sometimes they even tell the same story from differing points of view, which I found to be a fun way to see how they both view the same situation.  Anna is an amazingly strong character, but she's not afraid to let her emotions take over.  In such a stressful situation it's not hard for her to become weary and depressed. Because of the fact that she's so much older than T.J. she takes charge of the situation, and in the early months on the island she is the reason they survive.  She has a sense of responsibility and she knows she can't give up if T.J. is going to live.  I loved T.J.'s character.  In a lot of ways he is the typical sixteen year old boy, but he's had to grow up fast while he fought the cancer.  He's strong, responsible and willing to work hard, which he proves time and time again on the island.  While Anna handles the day to day aspects of survival, T.J. is the one that manages to feed and shelter them.  It's because of his perseverance that they survive for as long as they do.  At some point you see the dynamics of their relationship begin to change and you realize that Anna is no longer the one making the decisions.  Because of the obstacles thrown at him T.J. has grown into a man and he plays the part well.  What amazes me is how well T.J.'s transformation is written.  His character growth is so profound that by the middle of the book I'd forgotten that he was so much younger than Anna.  When their feelings begin to change for each other you can sense Anna's apprehension, but T.J. is tired of holding back.  He doesn't approach her like a horny teenager, he's a man now and he proves it.  As their future plays out they both have a lot of rational concerns about their relationship and seeing how they approach these issues makes for an extremely compelling read.     

On the Island is a beautifully written romance with enough action and adventure thrown in to keep you reading until all hours of the night.  I know it did for me!  I'm not at all surprised that On the Island has been picked up by Penguin, and I can't wait to see what new things are in store for this amazing writer.         

5 Stars * * * * * 

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