Wednesday, 6 March 2013

On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

Publication Date: 7th June 2012
Published by: Penguin
Genre: Contemporary Romance (Chick Lit)

At sixteen years old TJ Callahan has been through intensive treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and is given the all clear by his doctors when, much to his annoyance, his parents arrange to take the whole family to the Maldives for the summer.  TJ’s illness has meant that he missed a lot of school and so his parents appoint a private tutor to accompany them on the trip to prepare TJ for the coming academic year.

When high school teacher Anna Emerson gets the opportunity to spend the summer in the Maldives, working as a private tutor with a wealthy family, she sees it as an opportunity to escape her unhappy situation at home.  She can see that her long-term relationship with her boyfriend is rapidly deteriorating and realises they want different things.

Anna meets TJ at the airport, having (for reasons I won’t go into) arranged to travel to the island with him several days after the rest of the family have already left.  Delays and problems with connecting flights lead them to take a small private plane for the final leg of their journey.  As they fly over the islands – of which there are 1000 – their plane crashes.  The pilot dies while Anna and TJ are left stranded on one of the deserted islands with very few resources, and nothing but their wits and each other… 

It was an eye-opener reading what it would be like to find oneself in such a situation; with little-to-no survival training or experience.  That Anna was a teacher helped as she had a lot of essential practical knowledge.  That TJ had good common sense also helped - at one point he relies on his memory of watching survival TV shows to work out how to build a fire and, after several failed attempts, he does.  They probably would not have survived if they were alone.  They kept each other alive.  I can see how such a situation could create a strong bond between two people, as it did for them.

I knew this was a romance and I was slightly uncomfortable about where the novel would go – TJ is after all just 16 and Anna is in her early 30s when they first arrive on the island – but I was really impressed by the way Garvis-Graves had their relationship develop. The attraction was one-sided at first (a typical teenage boy lusting for a hot older woman, but in his defence he did his best to conceal it).  For Anna it happens much later – when TJ is no longer a boy – and even then she does not enter into the relationship with him lightly or without questioning her actions.

There is so much more I could say but I’ll stop here because I don’t want to give too much away.  Basically, it is a story about survival - not only literally (staying alive on a desert island against the odds) but also metaphorically (survival of a relationship against the odds). 

The novel was so compelling I could not put it down! I can honestly say it is one of the best romantic stories I have had the pleasure of reading.  I have a tendency to try to unravel a plot as I am reading and can usually guess where it is heading; not the case with this one. It was full of surprises. Both protagonists are very likeable (in fact, I would say TJ is a loveable character and just the right kind of romantic hero).  I tried to find a downside to this book (for balance) – but I couldn’t.

If you enjoy a good romance my advice is get hold of a copy of this book because On the Island isn't just a GOOD READ, it is a MUST READ, and one I certainly will revisit.

My appeal to readers

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