Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

On The Island 
by Tracey Garvis Graves

Release Date: October 11, 2011
Publisher: Self-Published when I read it
but now published by Penguin
Pages: 329
Genre: Adult Fiction/Romance
Source: Won from Good Choice Reading
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Haunt Author: Website | Facebook | Twitter
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 caught my attention awhile ago when it was featured as a goodreads giveaway. I love survival type stories. Lost, Cast Away, Blue Lagoon are all some of my favorite TV shows and movies about being stuck on an island. My reading pile is rather ginormous though so I kind of forgot about it until I saw the blog tour. I hopped around and after reading Andrea @ The Bookish Babe's review, which can be read HERE, I decided I would make the time. Plus I won a copy from one of the blog tour giveaways! Yay but I had already planed on reading it regardless. Okay I already know this will be one of my longer reviews so bear with me.

T.J. is now in remission from Hodgkin's lymphoma. After struggling through chemo and radiation for the past year or so he is way behind in school. Anna is a teacher and decided to take a summer job tutoring T.J. so he doesn't have to be held back in school. Their family is going to be spending the summer vacation away on an island. The parents are already at the destination. T.J. and Anna end up heading there alone. When they are just one plane ride away from their final destination the last flight is canceled. There is one small plane heading out that way so they take the flight. They are the only people on the plane besides the pilot, Mick. During flight, the pilot has a heart attack and dies as the plane crashes down to the ocean.

T.J. finds Anna and kicks his way to a nearby island. They assume that a recuse plane will be there any day. But they must find food and water in the meantime. I already started feeling so scared and bad for them. I wouldn't last a day without water. I have no survival skills! lol They can't find anything but a stagnant puddle and so they attempt to catch rain in their mouths. Eventually they are so desperate they drink the water and end up extremely sick. They lie around for days hopping to be rescued. They don't think they will make it until one of Anna's luggage bags washes up on shore and also a raft that has a water catcher.

My first thoughts when I read a survival story or a lot of stories when people are stranded without supplies, like in dystopians too, is how gross it would be to kiss someone who hadn't brushed their teeth for years! LOL I don't know if I'm the only one that immediately wonders these things but I always do. I liked that in this story all these things are mentioned. The suit case has toothpaste, soap, razors, shampoo, and a decent amount of toiletries to last them awhile. Which brings me to the romance part of the story. It is mentioned that T.J. is 16 and Anna is 30. That sounds a little weird at first but then I thought about it, and well if I was stuck on an island and thought I was going to die, age wouldn't be an issue. I'll be honest and say I wouldn't care at all! lol But it does help that their relationship develops over a long period of time. Nothing happens between them until T.J. is almost 19. Also along with one of those weird things I always wonder about is birth control! Heck no would I want a baby on an island but T.J. is sterile from all the chemo and radiation. Thank goodness! lol

I loved the way the story was told. There were alternating POVs between T.J. and Anna. I felt so connected to each character and felt their relationship slowly grow. They were everything to each other on the island. They worked together, took care of each other, talked about everything that has happened in their lives up until now and began to have a very close friendship. Anna slowly started seeing so much more in T.J. than a student and so did I. He was sweet and helpful and had been through so much he was definitely way more mature than your average 18 year old. He fought cancer and now he is stuck on an island as well. That blows. They should be able to have all the happiness they can muster on that crappy island. They struggled to find food and shelter. They eat nothing but breadfruit, coconuts, and fish. There are a few chickens and crab but mostly they are barely making it through. They come up with many clever ways to survive and make things work.

I loved the writing and the flow of the story. The book takes place over several years on one tiny island but I was never bored. I was always intrigued and caught up in the action and romance. The transitions between chapters and POVs were perfect. I always got a clear picture of both characters. Although months would pass through chapters, I felt like I was living all of it. I couldn't put it down. I stayed up all night reading it. I was dying to see how they would work through each obstacle thrown at them. I wanted to know if they would ever be rescued. If they were rescued I needed to know it would work out between them. They were both so worried that once they left the island, they would have to break up. There was the age difference. T.J. hadn't been able to experience a childhood but after such a crazy ordeal who could go back? I think extreme situations can produce love. It was a struggle for these characters to realize that but I was so happy to follow through their story and hope along with them that their love could survive anything.

"[T.J.] If she had gotten sick, the only thing I could have done was watch her suffer. Bury her next to Mick when she died. I didn’t know if I could make it without her. The sound of her voice, her smile, her– those were the things that made living on the island bearable. I held her a little tighter and thought if she woke up I might tell her that. She didn’t though. She sighed in her sleep, and eventually I drifted off."

"[Anna] In February, I woke up from a nap. A bouquet of flowers gathered from the various bushes and shrubs scattered around the island lay on the blanket beside me, a small length of rope wound around their stems.
I found T.J. down at the shore. “Someone’s been checking the calendar.”
He grinned. “I didn’t want to miss Valentine’s Day.”
I kissed him. “You’re sweet to me.”
Pulling me closer, he said, “It’s not hard, Anna.”
I stared into T.J.’s eyes, and he started to sway. My arms went around his neck and we danced, moving in a circle, the sand soft and warm under our feet.
“You don’t need music, do you?”
“No,” T.J. said. “But I do need you."

Rating: 5/5 Stars! 


  1. Oh WOW! A full five stars?? Now I think I have to read this book! :) When I first saw that cover, the first thing that came to mind was that this was some sort of beachy contemporary read but it's so much cooler that this is more of a survival dystopian book! I don't read many of those and this would be a nice change :)

    Awesome review, Jennifer! And that was such a sweet excerpt to share too -- Anna and T.J. are so cute together! x) <3

    1. I couldn't put it down! Well worth five stars! It was way deeper than your average contemporary although there were quite a few beautifully sweet and romantic scenes.

  2. Thanks for the review. I had seen the book and was creeped out by the age difference. But after reading your review and the years before something occured I see it now! I loved stuck on island stories too!! thanks again

    1. Stuck on an island stories are so interesting! I could never make it but it's nice to see strong characters work through and survive. The age difference is no big deal at all I promise. There is a wonderful build to their relationship so nothing feels quick or forced. I hope you give it a try!

  3. Hi, Jennifer! I'm so honored that my review helped convince you to read On the Island. That makes blogging worthwhile. I'm thrilled you loved the book as much as I did. Few books have moved me as much. Great review!

    1. You way convinced me! I was already wanting to read it but after your review I was like yes I'm definitely reading this! LOL It was a great read! Couldn't put it down. I figured it would be good but it blew past all my expectations.

  4. I have seen this book before but never got the chance to read it although your review ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED me to read this! I love the cover and how interesting this book sounds!

    And awwww...those quotes are very swoon-worthy and romantic! I am getting this book!!!

    Awesome review, Jennifer! ♥ So glad you enjoyed it!

    PS: I SEE TEAM JEM BANNER THERE. Remember our Twitter convos? ;P

    1. haha Team Jem forever!

      But yes you should definitely read it! It was so interesting and beautiful but also scary and sad. I got completely caught up in the story until I just had to finish it. I stayed up all night! Literally!

  5. For some reason, I have this insane interest in anything and everything that has the word "Island" in it since I lived in the Caribbean islands for two years - which, I must ashamedly admit, was the only why I chose to read this particular review. However, boy am I glad that I did, because your review has convinced me to read this one! I think that all of us, at some point, have wondered (and planned) as to what we would do, if we were to ever be stuck as castaways on an island, which I believe makes for an extremely intriguing premise for this novel. Plus, I think it says a lot that the author neber lets the story go stale, although the narrative spans years, all of them spent on an island. Kudos to the author.

    Thank you for the very comprehensive and thoughtful review. Your review has ABSOLUTELY convinced me to read this book :D

    Name: Hira Hasnain
    Email: Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Oh I know! I always wonder how and if I could ever survive being stuck on an island. I truly don't think I could! lol I'm so happy I have convinced you! I really think you will enjoy it and anyone else who enjoys these type of stories. I love these types of books but even I was really blown away! It went beyond my expectations. It's also extremely reasonably priced! I was never bored and it takes place over a long time but I also never felt rushed or like I missed years. It was fantastic.


Thanks so much for visiting and commenting! I read and love every single comment!