On the Island by Tracy Garvis Graves
Published June 7, 2012 by Plume
Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.
T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.
Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.
At first, their only thought is survival. 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.
How goes it?
On the Island is part-survival story, part-romance, but the biggest draw for me in this book is the May-December pairing. This isn’t a very long read – it can be read in a day – and it’s a good book to pass time with.
It’s just the right blend of survival and romance, once they leave the safety of their island, and when they finally enter the real world again. In a way, the island was a safe place, where they could freely be together, but once they do get back to Chicago the real world seeps back in, and it’s not just the two of them anymore.
The thing I liked best about this book was that it didn’t linger too long on any issue – how they will find food, shelter, even the age difference once they’re back. It all moved along quite briskly, and for that I’m glad. I was expecting something that would be focused on the survival, the hopelessness of it too much, but this managed to strike the balance between serious and light-hearted. Well, as light-hearted as being stuck on an island without basic necessities could be.
I like TJ and Anna, they’re both realistic, and kind of pragmatic, but they’re brought about by different circumstances – TJ because he’s a cancer survivor, and Anna because she has a few years on him. He knows he can’t catch up and frankly doesn’t want to, because he’s past it, and he really just wants to move on, but Anna, who wants the best for TJ, wants him to experience the things he missed out on. This is the conflict that awaits them in Chicago. The outcry regarding their relationship isn’t glossed over, but it isn’t put in the spotlight either, which I liked, because this really is about TJ and Anna and how they’ll deal with their new relationship and the insecurities they face. This is told in alternating POVs, but it isn’t confusing, and doesn’t jump all over the place. There’s a continuity in the story.
I thought this was good, like a quiet kind of good. Not a “damn son, that was amazing, give me more!!” but a good that will put a satisfied smile on your face. This is also a standalone that quite neatly wraps up everything with a cute little bow in the form of a very satisfying epilogue (and I do love me some nicely done epilogues) so 4 paper planes it is!