Friday, June 5, 2015

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves | Book Review

About the book:

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.

Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: August 16, 2012
Pages: 346
Genre: Contemporary Romance

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: I've had this on my kindle for a good two years now and just last week, while I was on a 10 hour flight flying across the Atlantic, my brain decided it was a good idea to read about a plane wreck in the middle of the ocean! Oh, the irony of my own mind.

I went into this read knowing only that it it's a bestselling self-published-turned-traditional-published novel about two people who were stranded on an island. What unfolded was a wonderfully-paced tale with physical, mental, and emotional struggles on a levels I have never experienced. It was like "Cast Away" meets... well, I guess I haven't read a romance like this so I don't have another book to compare it to, but it was a tasteful romance nonetheless.

Despite all the controversy wrapped around the two main characters, Anna and T.J., their relationship was hard-hitting and understandable for the situation they had been dealt. I felt as if I could empathize with them, even though I've never experienced anything close to what they went through. I enjoyed the route the author took with Anna and T.J. as individuals and a couple; from start to finish nothing ever seemed rushed, ill-timed, or out of character so it was still relatable. The pacing of the romance and being able to understand Anna and T.J.'s feelings and motives so well made me love and appreciate the development and strengthening of their relationship. I also appreciated how light the sex scenes were, that even though this book is adult fiction, we were given more of the characters' emotions than their actions. I haven't read a romance with a 13.5 year age gap between the romantic partners, but Tracey Garvis Graves approached this topic with a lot of caution, honesty, balance and humor, which made this reading experience a great one. 

My two negatives about the book deal with T.J.'s voice and the conflicts that arose on the island. In the beginning, T.J.'s voice wasn't very strong and I didn't find him entirely relatable until Anna started seeing T.J. as having matured. I wish he had a stronger voice in the beginning, to accurately represent the depth teenagers possess. Additionally, Anna and T.J. ran into a lot of conflicts on the island, as one would presume, and while most of them were fitting and kept the plot moving smoothly, some of the conflicts seemed a bit too predictable or plotted. For example, Anna was the only one who got hurt by sea creatures, which was a handful of times. With each new incident I thought, what about T.J.? This aspect wasn't a real bother, but I would have thought with how much time they spent on the island that they would both have their share of life threatening events. 

The ending was incredibly satisfying and I only had loving feelings toward the story and its characters. When I started this book, I wasn't sure what to anticipate, but the delivery was delightful. I don't typically finish books thinking, "This would make a great movie" but this is definitely an exception because I think this would translate to film beautifully! I'm looking forward to exploring Tracey Garvis Graves other books, especially the sequel novella to On the Island

If you've read, On the Island, I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

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