Published: August 16th, 2012
On The Island
By: Tracy Garvis Graves
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.
There seems to be something about taking people from modern time periods and dropping them onto a deserted island to fend for themselves that takes the fun right out of it. I don't know about you guys, but I'm such a fan of Swiss Family Robinson castaway types - the ones who make the most out of the situation by finding the fun and excitement in it. Or at least have them be like the Blue Lagoon castaways, where everyday is a new discovery about life itself while living in an island paradise, away from the taint of civilization. What I got was a 30 year old schoolteacher, desperate for a family of her own, plus on the verge of breaking it off with her dead-end boyfriend and her sixteen year old student, who is spending his summer recovering from cancer and catching up on schoolwork - at least until they get stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere when their pilot has a heart attack. Every day is just a struggle to stay alive, with food, water, fire and shelter being the prime concerns. But after a few years on the island, Anna and T.J. begin to fall in love with each other and start to imagine a life with each other off the island.
Anna was a decent character, but even with the emotional monologues and personal issues, I never felt like I really knew what she was going through. And her know-it-all attempts to tell T.J. what's best for him really got on my nerves. He's old enough to have sex with her, but T.J. isn't old enough to decide he's in love with her? Bitch, please! Also, the only feeling I did ever get off of her was completely ambivalent and she had no personality to me as a reader: insert placeholder HERE. Yes, this book was fairly true to life. But honestly speaking, and this is something you will never hear me say about ANY other genre, I much prefer my castaway/island stories to be unrealistic and fun! The slow build of romance over time after friendship, and all of the realistic survival issues made boring (at least to me) converged to make me feel like this book was really repetitive and not all that interesting. I felt like 2/3 of the book was them eating, swimming, or missing a plane/dreaming of life off the island. The almost PTSD actions of both of them once they were off the island only made the book even more depressing, until a last minute turnaround which made me roll my eyes and smile. Overall, I recommend it to lovers of chick lit who like the more maudlin aspects of being castaway. But for those who want old style adventure, or classically epic romance this is not the book for you. At least if you're anything like me at all.
VERDICT: 2.5/5 Stars
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**