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.
Before we get into the review, please note that On the Island is an adult title. At the beginning of the book, one of the characters is a teenager, but at over 300 pages we cover 3-4 years of their lives. That said, there isn’t much here that isn’t suitable for teens. As always, use your best judgement!
I’ve always been kind of fascinated about survival stories. I’m not a complete girly-girl, but camping has never been my strong suit. When I first heard of On The Island I knew I wanted to read it.
You can’t help but feel for TJ, he’s been sick for awhile and is finally feeling better. Now he’s having to spend his summer with his family and a tutor on an island. Anna’s boyfriend won’t propose so she decides to accept the chance to tutor TJ without hesitation. A summer working on an island.
Their life on the island is heart-wrenching. Here’s this 16 year old teen stuck with his 30 year old tutor, granted they get along great, but it’s not exactly the ideal situation. As a reader, I couldn’t help but feel for each character. The entire world they’d created while on the island was terrifying, yet fascinating. I love that their relationship, especially the romantic side, felt so realistic. They didn’t just hop into anything, it gradually happened as TJ grew into a man instead of a boy.
On the Island is the sort of book that leads to many of those questioning trains of thought – “Would I be able to light a fire?” and even the more shallow thoughts like “What if I had no shampoo?”. Upon finishing On the Island, I’ve been haunted for days with these thoughts.
Now for the negative, I loved this book, but at times I felt like the writing style left something to be desired. Particularly in the transitions of time, it felt like something was just missing. I’m going to admit, it’s one of those times I can’t really articulate what I want, but I know I want something more. It was just awkward enough I felt pulled out of the story before I got sucked in, I know many of you know what I’m talking about. That said, those moments were few and within a paragraph or two I was right back in the story.
I had heard about On the Island for awhile before reading it, but now that I have I definitely see the appeal. I cannot wait to read more from Garvis-Graves.
I received my copy of On the Island: A Novel in exchange for my honest opinion from the publisher as part of the blog tour.