Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

On the Island
by Tracey Garvis Graves
September 3, 2011
334 pages
Source: Kindle Purchase

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.(Taken from Goodreads)

Opening Line
  I was thirty years old when the seaplane T.J. Callahan and I were traveling on crash-landed in the Indian Ocean. 

My Take On It

Apparently I have been living under a rock or something because On the Island only came to my attention very recently, courtesy of one of my favorite blogger's: Asheley from Into the Hall of Books.  And this is what I LOVE about blogging about books! Had it not been for Asheley, I might never have taken note of On the Island. And thinking about that just makes me sad because this book is AMAZING. Seriously, all those reviews you have read which remark about the un-put-down-ability of this book are 100% correct. 

Tracey Garvis Graves' debut made the NY Times, USA Today and Kindle Bestseller's lists AND has recently been optioned for film by MGM/ Temple Hill Productions (the same team who produced Twilight by the way.) And there is a reason for it: On the Island  is one heck of an entertaining and romantic read that kept me completely riveted the entire 334 pages. There was never a dull moment in this dual narrative. I had a hard time disengaging myself from this book to do tedious tasks like eating, sleeping, showering, taking care of my kids, etc. I just had to know what was going to happen with Anna and T.J.!!! (Yes, excessive exclamation points are necessary.)

The Goodreads summary above gives you an idea of how the two main characters end up on the island, and it did have a very Blue Lagoon/ Castaway feel to it (which is all good in my opinion!) The description of the island that becomes home for Anna and T.J. is beautiful and terrifying in equal measure. Reading this book made me want to go sign up for a survival course, because I would be woefully unprepared if something like this happened to me. 

But it is the relationship between Anna and T.J. that makes up the meat of this book. The story, and their time on the island, takes place over years (though it doesn't feel like it because the pacing is perfect, not too fast, not too slow) and the result is the reader really gets a sense of who these two people are and is witness to who they become. I was SO invested in this couple. I admit I was constantly waiting for something to go wrong, wondering what trial they would face next. I had a very late night while reading On the Island, hoping and praying that things would work out for the two of them. 

So, listen. There's a little bit of ...controversy regarding the age difference between the two main characters. But after reading the book I can tell you that honestly, the whole age issue disappeared under the skilled hands of the author. And I knew going in that these two charcters, stranded on an uninhabited island for an undetermined, yet seemingly long, period of time, were eventually going to be intimate. Come on. It's a man and a woman, thrown together under extremly crazy and scary circumstances, for YEARS.  Even though Anna is nearly fifteen years his senior, it seemed pretty obvious to me that some fooling around was going to be going on sooner or later. 

But let me say that as lighthearted as I just made the above issue out to be, Graves never glossed over that in her writing. She never made light of the fact that, at least in the beginning, she is talking about an adult and a minor. T.J is sixteen soon to be seventeen, but under the law he is still a minor. And the charcter of Anna never forgets this or abuses her position as the adult in the relationship. I think that's crucial to this book, becuase had it been written any other way it just wouldn't have worked in today's society.  It seems that stories of inappropraite behavior between teachers and underage students are in the news constantly. So for the record, nothing goes down between them until well after T.J.'s eighteenth birthday. And I applaud Graves' for making sure that every decision Anna or T.J. make in regards to their changing relationship is well thought out and never hasty. 

The added bonus of this deliberation is a whole lot of tension as T.J. and Anna's relationship shifts from  platonic to intimate. LOADS. And it's all the good kind of tension. After reading so much YA lately (which I love, don't get me wrong) it's a nice change to read some adult fiction! Though I think there is wide crossover appeal in On the Island. Adults, New Adults, and the older YA set would all enjoy this book. I really like how the lines between genre's are beginning to blur more. I hope that is a trend that continues. 

I wish I could talk more about what happens on the island and I wish I could elaborate more on how things end for Anna and T.J. but I would never want to spoil this book for anyone out there who has not yet had the pleasure of reading it. And  if you fall into that category than I strongly urge you to do so!  I know that after reading this book I will most definitely be checking out future works by Tracey Garvis Graves including her next release Covet, due out this fall:)

4.5/ 5 Stars

Check out the author's website here.

Check out what some other reviewer's had to say about On the Island.
Into the Hall of Books
A Pocket Full of Books
That Artsy Reader Girl


  1. Looooooooooved On the Island (and also love Tracey, as she has indulged my fan-girl-crush). I, too, felt like I was late to the party when I found the book, somewhat randomly, and have recommended it to everyone I know. I also wrote a review on my blog. It's really such a unique, unusual and engrossing book. It's early, I'm probably making no sense. -Erika @

  2. Got to read this -- I love when books succeed through positive word of mouth, and this book seems to be a perfect example of that!

  3. Love this review -- I so want to know what happens on the island!! I'm adding this one to my summer reading list for sure! :)

    1. Is this one only available for kindle, Heather? I searched The Book Depo for it, but can't find it.

    2. Leanna, it looks like it is available in paperback for $11.99, as well as Kindle (the version I read) but only through Amazon (not Amazon UK.) Can you order from Amazon and have it shipped international?

  4. My teen daughter just finished reading (and really enjoyed!) an eBook called Hear by Jacqueline Abelson. Great plot, interesting characters and a real message of self– empowerment. Here’s the link:

  5. I've heard nothing but great things about this book! I really need to read it soon! I have it on my iPod, although I might buy the physical book because that's what I prefer. I think that's why I haven't gotten to it yet. I'm admit I'm not as good with the ebooks. Great review Heather! :-)

  6. Oh yay! So glad you loved this one, too! I read this like a month ago and after reading your review, I think I might want to reread it already. I'm also excited to see Tracey has another book coming out soon. I'll definitely read that one, too!!


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