On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

Publication Date: October 11th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 319 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
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.

What a lovely, lovely read…
…Oh heck, whom am I kidding? This book filled me with anxiety for some odd reason. Besides the fact that I knew the plane was going to go down, the characters were going to get stuck on an island for the next three years, and the fact that they would be involved in a May-December affair, I wasn’t expecting a freaking HEA. This maybe the reason why I’ve put off reading this book just because. While the romance was something that caused some fluttering in my chest, I also expected the worst – not with the writing but with how the story was going to end.
Ms. Graves lull me into complacency but the trepidation didn’t really dissipate. At first, I was thinking that this book lacked conflict…and then I thought, what? As if getting stuck on an island for three years wasn’t enough of a conflict for you? I just thought that the relationship was going way too perfect. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and when it did I just wanted to go fetal in a corner and start sucking on my thumb.

From time to time, you get asked the question, “who would you rather get stuck on an island with?” And you think of some incredibly handsome heartthrob that you’ve crushed on for years. Or perhaps a literary crush you may have? An actor? Well, if I get stuck on an island I’d rather have Les Stroud than Christian Bale because, damn, Les can find us shelter and food. Though he may not be as pleasing to the eye than Christian. My point is, getting stuck on an island in reality is really not that romantic. Imagine being thirsty and hungry and dirty all the time – the author did a tremendous job in showing just how difficult it could be. I swear I drank so much water while reading just because I was having some sympathetic thirst. Ms. Graves’ writing was that potent. 

I did have some reservations about how long they held off on the sex. While I understand that Ms. Graves was trying to keep everything legal, I just didn’t think it was convincing. The cynical part of me thinks that a teenage boy wouldn’t be as sensible as T.J. was, and a woman in her prime wouldn’t be as levelheaded as Anna was when it came to giving in to their sexual attraction. But…that’s just me though. 

VERDICT: On the Island is a heady combination of  sweet and seemingly impossible romance, spurred on by a realistic, frightening scenario that will have you reading non-stop until you know for sure that the characters got their happily ever after. Perfect beach read!

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