All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

On The Island – Tracey Garvis-Graves

on July 19, 2012

On The Island
Tracey Garvis-Graves
Penguin AU
2012 (originally 2011), eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Anna Emerson is almost thirty. A high school English teacher, she decides to take a summer job tutoring T.J Callahan, a 16yo boy in remission from cancer. T.J has missed a lot of schooling and requires some catch up and his parents have chosen to take a holiday in the Maldives and Anna is meeting T.J at the airport where they will begin their long journey to join the rest of the family. Anna needs some space from her long-term boyfriend because she’s ready to settle down properly, get married and start a family and he just isn’t. This summer is just delaying the inevitable but Anna is happy to take the time to put off putting into action the choice she has already made.

The last leg of their journey there is a mistake and they are not booked onto the flight they are supposed to be from the capital of the Maldives out to the island where T.J’s family are. After some scrambling, a seaplane pilot says he can take them the final leg and they take off before they can get word to T.J’s parents that they are on their way. When the pilot Mick has a fatal heart attack, the plane goes down, crashing into the sea.

Their life jackets keep them afloat until they both wash up on one of the many islands littering this part of the world. Unfortunately for them, this one is uninhabited and although they sight a plane in the next few days, it doesn’t see them and it seems they are on their own. Luckily some of their luggage washes up which does provide them with a few comforts but the journey is really just beginning for them as they will have to learn how to survive: collecting water, food, finding something to use for shelter, steering clear of predators.

As the days turn to months, the dangers are always changing. But with no chance of a rescue in sight, it seems that for Anna, the biggest danger of all is sharing the space with a boy who is quickly becoming a man. It’s only a matter of time.

Okay so here’s a little confession. It all started the Christmas I was 7 or 8 and my parents gave me a hardback copy of The Swiss Family Robinson. I read the absolute heck out of that book. I even wrote my first “novel” based on it, shipwrecking myself and all my friends on an island. And ever since, I’ve loved “marooned” stories. I’ll take anywhere, but an island is preferable. Bonus points if the island contains all kinds of extremely unlikely creatures for that climate that couldn’t possibly co-exist. I only need to hear “remote plane crash”, “shipwreck”, “capsize” or anything remotely resembling those terms and I am there. So it was a given I was going to request this one from Penguin AU, via NetGalley.

Apparently this was self-published…but popularity has led to the author being offered a two book deal with Penguin and this one is being republished under that brand. I read it as part of my participation in NetGalley Knockdown, where I’m aiming to read as many of my galleys from there as possible throughout the month of July. We start off innocently enough, Anna saying goodbye to her boyfriend at the airport and meeting T.J to travel with him to the Maldives. Immediately you learn that Anna is discontent with her life which has played a part in accepting this job. T.J is quiet, resentful of spending the summer in the Maldives (I know, right?) when he’d rather just be with his friends. They barely know each other and merely 24hrs later they are stranded together on an island.

What I found a bit surprising about this book was that there was a distinct lack of tension or drama. I expected more threats, more life and death situations but in reading, it was relatively tame. Anna and T.J do have quite a difficult time of it the first few days, suffering thirst and dehydration which they eventually try to combat by drinking stagnant water (this does not go well). But it takes them relatively little time to light a fire, to find food that they can eat. Anna’s suitcase helpfully washes up containing supplies such as soap, shampoo and washing powder. They use one of her earrings to construct a fishing line and Anna skilfully guts the fish T.J catches, because her dad used to take her fishing a lot when she was a child. They build various shelters using tools that were in the pack with the life raft (which also washes up on shore).

Instead what this book more seems to do is explore the unlikely romance that develops between T.J and Anna. T.J is just 16 when the plane crashes and he finds Anna ‘hot’ right away but he spends most of the time at first mostly just thinking about how pretty she is. It isn’t until they’ve been stranded on the island for about two years that he starts stepping it up and actually trying to make a small move on her. Anna by this time has gotten to know T.J as more than just the student she was going to tutor: he is for all purposes a man now, probably mature far beyond his years given the situation they have been living. I did find the relationship a bit well, difficult to get my head around, probably because I am 30, the same age Anna was when she was marooned on the island with T.J and 16 year old boys just seem so young to me. I can’t see myself logically following the same course as she did, I found it hard to put myself in her shoes because the idea of being with someone so young was very difficult for me to imagine, no matter the situation. “Legal” doesn’t always make it “right” or “believable”.

Whilst I did enjoy On The Island for me it still lacked that crucial edge that would’ve made this a truly unputdownable read. I don’t mean that the characters had to face death every single day but given they were on this island for years, I think that there could’ve been a little more done in order to show that the situation for them could go either way rather than it being some extended holiday in a remote location where they occasionally suffered through a storm or spotted a shark.


Book #127 of 2012

On The Island was the first book read in July from NetGalley, counting towards my participation in NetGalley Knockdown!

4 responses to “On The Island – Tracey Garvis-Graves

  1. VeganYANerds says:

    I read a couple of reviews for this back when it was just an ebook and I bought a copy but it remains unread. I really enjoyed your review and I wonder how I’ll feel about the romance between them.

    Also, I love that your first novel was about you and your friends being shipwrecked!

    • I think I would’ve found it easier to grasp if he was say, 18 or something when they crashed and she was to tutor him to make up for missing his final year of school due to illness. I just find 16yo boys SO YOUNG and yeah even though he had cancer and may’ve been more mature, it doesn’t change his actual age.

      Oh it was an awesome novel, haha. We ate lots of wild boar meat and coconuts. Oh, and sugarcane!

      • Anne says:

        Maybe it would have helped if TJ had been a man? Whilst I have never been with someone younger than me, it does not shock me. There is far worse going on in the world! Only this weekend did I read about a 70 years old so called famous man saying he could not refuse children to his 30 years wife (in the Guardian). He could actually be her grandfather. It quite interesting to see that Tj actually has to do a bit of growing up before she sees him differently. It is a fun book full of things that do not make sense (which you point out) but maybe this will contribute to make people a little more open minded about age difference in a couple when the woman is older.

  2. […] ● Bree @ All The Books I Can Read wrote “Whilst I did enjoy On The Island for me it still lacked that crucial edge that would’ve made this a truly unputdownable read.” (Read the rest of the review Here!) […]

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