On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves
Published: August 16, 2012 by Penguin
Source: Gifted from Jess - thank you!
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. [goodreads]
This novel was recommended to me profusely by one of my good friends, Jess from Gone with the Words. I always trust her judgment in books, but something about this one held reservations for me. Could it be the teacher/student relationship? Or my unknown fear of being trapped on a deserted island? Whatever the reasons, they quickly vanished as I made the decision to finally read this novel -- and what a beautiful, most unexpected journey it took me on.
Anna is spending the summer in the Maldives, a grouping of tropical islands, for the summer tutoring T.J. who has spent some time out of school due to being sick with cancer. Now that he's on the road to recovery, his parents thought a family vacation for the summer would be a good idea for T.J. - but they also wanted him to catch up on his studies, so that's why they enlisted the help of English teacher Anna.
Anna and T.J. take a later flight than the rest of his family, planning to meet them there. On the way their journey goes terribly wrong, sending them to what should have been their deaths -- a plane crash in the middle of nowhere, deserting them on an uninhabited island. My nerves were shaken up at this point, terrified of what lied ahead for them. I quickly turned page after page, in search of their rescue, hoping and praying along side them, only to lose hope as their dehydration set in and their resources became limited.
This book is about human survival, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Our bodies need water to live, just as our hearts need companionship to survive. The relationship between Anna and T.J. was predictable, but it occurred at such a slow, easy pace, allowing the reader time to understand their situation and believe in their need for one another. Before I read this story, I thought their relationship would bother me, but honestly the difference in their ages faded away as their love for one another grew stronger.
The means these two went through in order to find food, seek shelter, and stay alive in the raw elements of nature really grabbed my attention. If I were ever to be in this situation, I honestly have no idea how or even if I'd be able to endure what they went through. Though some parts felt a little too easy, like Anna's suitcase washing ashore just when they needed it most, I tended to look past that and just believe that convenience was needed for the story to progress in the manner it was meant to be told.
On the Island goes further than I had expected, a fateful twist about half way through carried the story in a new direction, which caused me to keep reading, never wanting to put the book down. I feel as though I am walking away from this novel, away from Anna and T.J., as if I knew them. Their story really took form, and as dramatic as it became, it felt tangible seeping from the pages. If you're on the fence about this one, as I was before, I strongly urge you to give it a go. Take a chance with this story, it may just surprise you.