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On the Island (On the Island #1) by Tracey Garvis-Graves

July 17, 2013


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.

My Review:

I am not going to attempt to write a coherent review of this. I can’t. I remember this book last year when it came out. The Goodreads community was all over it; it’s normally my deal to not join in the hype of a book that is out of my normal genre. Call me a snob if you will, I own all my attributes both good and bad. Recently one of my very good friends, *waves at Jennay* had been on my ass to read this. Being in the land of boys I wasn’t sure when I would get to it but I made a promise and I stand by them. Yesterday, I was in a funk; more in my personal life than books and needed that read to reaffirm WHY I read. So finally clicked on the beautiful beach cover of On the Island and settled down to meet Anna and T.J. What happened? What happened is less than a day later, 15 waking hours to be exact I read the book from cover to cover. Books that grab me that way don’t come along every day and I cherish the ones that do.

I was thirty years old when the seaplane T.J. Callahan and I were traveling on crash-landed in the Indian Ocean. T.J. was sixteen, and three months into remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The pilots name was Mick, but he died before we hit the water.

How can you not sit down and get lost in a book that starts with that? WITH THAT! Who are these authors that come up with these stories? I swear they belong to a secret society out to take and break my heart with how well they write. Immediately I was sucked in; waiting for the inevitable while holding my breath as each day on the island passed. Learning more about Anna and T.J. as they realize their possible fate and loving how they began to grow. This gorgeous story of two people who must lean on each other to survive is now a part of me. How is it possible to forget T.J. and Anna from the first time we meet them in the airport to the crash, finding the island, the bats, the rats, the pond..ugh. Most of you have probably read this already so I won’t go into the story. It would be pointless to try to put into words how it affected me. Have I said how gorgeous the story was?

Have I been stranded on an island in the middle of the ocean? No. So how do I know what would happen? I don’t but I have seen enough survival shows via my husband and footage of natural disasters to know that this story did not take a leap of faith to believe. You had to believe. The beautiful writing does the job for you; you are ON the island with Anna and T.J. going through each hardship and triumph right alone with them. They went through so much that I could not stop reading, I had to know what happened and if they would make it over each obstacle that was thrown, tossed or washed up their way.  I laughed with them, cried with them, fretted and celebrated with them. I was SO IN this book!

The relationship building between Anna and T.J. was stellar. I am a fan of the slow burn and it was done amazingly well. The age difference ceased to be a factor as the days, months etc. progressed. How can two people in this situation NOT be drawn to each other in every way imaginable? Though I was okay with anything that happened, I applaud the author for keeping with a moral compass to not make this a tropical May/December smut fest. The relationship between Anna and T.J. was heartwarming, sweet, intense, sexy, believable and simply beautiful. I would normally say I am overusing that word but I am not; the story was beau-ti-ful.

What we did was our business and no one else’s. At least that is what I told myself.

I strongly believe that books find you. You can have them on your mountainous to be read list but the ones you pick, you pick for a reason. On the Island found me when I needed it. I needed that connection to a story that would allow me to get lost, to lose myself in a story and remember that books like this, stories like this are why I love to call myself a reader. I will forever be thankful for taking a chance on the story of Anna and T.J.;  though I am late to the love fest of this book, I hold my membership firmly in my grasp and refuse to let it go.

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.

“T.J. is young. When people look at him, they don’t see what I see. They see a kid.”
“What do you see?”
“I just see T.J.”


 Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny permalink
    July 18, 2013 3:08 am

    Oh Sara…my eyes are leaking:) You make me want to get lost in OTI again…

  2. July 18, 2013 5:56 pm

    hey.. glad you enjoyed this book.. I loved it… if you get a chance check out my review @

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