Title: On the Island
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Publisher: August 16th 2012 by Penguin
Format: Paperback, 347 pages
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 absolutely adored this book. When I went in, I had some misgivings: would this be one of those creepy things where the older chick likes the way younger dude? Would there be a bunch of naked sexy times on the beach? Would it be horribly depressing, them being stuck there for so long? How interesting can years on a beach be? Luckily, every one of my fears with misguided.
The characters were wonderful. Anna was dealing with a relationship whose direction she wasn’t sure of. She was strong and confident in herself. When the pilot started having trouble, she was the one who stepped up and tried to help. She remained strong after the crash and helped keep them safe. T.J. was your average kid who just wanted to hang out with his friends instead of spend the summer with his family and a tutor. He was understandably scared after the crash, and tried to be strong, but needed to lean on Anna a lot.
One of the most interesting things about the book was watching as their roles changed, as T.J. became stronger and Anna learned to rely on him more and more. It was subtle, real and so sweet.
The plane crash, their fight to survive and their hope for rescue were all heart-wrenching. Tracey Garvis Graves can write suspense, action and romance like nobody’s business. And there’s more than just their need for food and water; there’s bad weather, illnesses, bathing and much more. I was worried that it would be boring, with nothing but the island to read about, but Graves managed to make everything interesting. There was more than 1 occasion that involved me rushing through to see what happened next.
I really liked that the point of view switched from Anna’s to T.J.’s, I could get inside their heads as they matured and fell for each other. The romance was sweet and factually graphic. The actual romance didn’t start until after T.J. came of age, so need to worry about that aspect.
There were a few “Well, that was convenient.” moments that were a bit annoying, but I just rolled with them. The survival part of the story was taken over about halfway through by the romance part. While this might bother some, I enjoyed it.
This is a survival story perfect for the romance fan.
Tracey Garvis-Graves is the author of On the Island and Covet. She lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, two children, and hyper dog Chloe. She blogs at www.traceygarvisgraves.com using colorful language and a snarky sense of humor to write about pop culture, silly television shows, and her suburban neighborhood.