Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

15505346Blurb from Goodreads:

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.


This book is told from the alternate POVs of Anna and T.J. Every chapter is a switch from one to the other and at first it was a bit erratic for me. What I got from reading Tracey Garvis-Graves is that she seems sparse with her words. Her chapters seemed not that long and one time I was thinking that they felt a little like staccato for me. Not that this is a bad thing. It was just a bit difficult for me especially in the beginning to get into the groove of her writing. Nevertheless, she tells her story and I like where she goes with it. In the first half, I was kind of waiting for the romance to happen but then I got invested more on their survival and their need for one another in the very basic way of needing to have somebody in order to survive. Although, when the romance did happen, I was on board with them as well.

Anna and T.J. weren’t as fleshed out as other characters I’ve read but they were fleshed out as they needed to be in the book for the story to work and at least to that extent I’m satisfied. I can imagine them as real people: Anna with her long-time boyfriend who can’t quite commit to marriage, T.J. with his battle with cancer.

The age difference between them and the inevitable consequences of their relationship were handled well, I think. The various perspectives that were shown were given their voice, so to speak, and I appreciate that the author did not try to gloss over this and instead presented the readers with a realistic take on the issue.

Although I did not feel that much invested, partly because I had a feeling the author would never give us anything but a happy ending, it was still a good read for me.


Rating: 3 ½ / 5 stars





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