Friday 31 August 2012

Book Review & Giveaway: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves.

Product details:
Publisher: Penguin.
Paperback, 368 pages.
Release date: August 16th 2012.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: Adult.
Source:  Received from publisher for review.

Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. 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.

A story of survival against all the odds, On the Island, the compulsively readable debut from Tracey Garvis Graves tells the story of Anna Emerson, a thirty year old teacher, and her student, sixteen year old T.J. Callahan. Following a plane crash, Anna and T.J. find themselves stranded on a desert island. They are sure that they will be rescued in a matter of hours, but it doesn’t happen. Days, weeks, months and years pass. Every day is a struggle against the elements, against illness, against hunger, thirst and decay. And there are other struggles, struggles of the heart, as Anna and T.J. remain stranded on the island, day after day, year after year, just the two of them. Together. Alone

Anna is at a crossroads in her life. She wants marriage and babies, but the guy she’s dedicated herself to, the guy she’s spent eight years with, won’t commit. He wants Anna, but beyond that, he doesn’t know what he wants. So, when Anna is offered a summer tutoring job in the Maldives, she jumps at the chance. This will give her the space she needs to decide where her life is going. And what could be better than a summer in paradise? T.J. Callahan is not so excited at the prospect of a whole summer spent catching up on assignments. He’s finally in remission from the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that has so far plagued his life, and all he wants to do is hang out with his friends back home. He wants to let loose, to party, to hook up with hot girls.

We meet Anna and T.J as they embark on their trip to the Maldives, but they never make it that far, crash-landing somewhere in the Indian Ocean when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a heart attack. What follows is a compelling struggle for survival told in dual narrative, the viewpoint switching from Anna to T.J. with each chapter. I found myself reading late into the night as I got to know more about these two people, their hopes and dreams all fading away as they remained stranded on the island. If you think that reading about the daily lives of two people stuck on an uninhabited island sounds like it might be a little repetitive, then you’d be wrong. Anna and T.J encounter so many obstacles – from storms to sharks – in their daily lives. Every day is a struggle. Every day brings with it a new worry, a new threat. And then there is the constant worry that T.J.’s cancer might return. With him Anna can make it. But without him, she doesn’t know how she’d survive. And T.J. knows exactly how she feels, because he doesn’t know how he’d survive if she went first. As they share their fears with us, we worry for them. We put ourselves in their situation. We wonder about our own survival instincts. Would I make it on the island? Would you?

The subject matter of On the Island might raise a few eyebrows. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that the relationship between Anna and T.J. is as touching and honest as it is passionate. But if you haven’t yet read it, then you’re probably thinking that it all sounds a little or maybe a lot taboo. I had read a couple reviews of this book before I read it, so I already knew that the author dealt with the growing attraction and subsequent relationship between Anna and T.J. in a responsible manner, but it’s handled with a great deal of it sensitivity too. Anna is a responsible adult, always aware that T.J is younger than her, always mindful of the boundaries between them, and never crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed. T.J. has a quiet thoughtfulness about him. He’s more mature than a typical teenage guy.

T.J.’s been through a lot. He’s a survivor. He clings to life when it looks like all hope is gone. And he knows what’s truly important in life. He knows to never let go when you find the thing that makes you happy. This, he teaches Anna. I loved the characters that Garvis Graves created. I especially loved T.J. Both him and Anna are characters that readers will really warm to. T.J. and Anna were real and honest, true to themselves and to each other.

On the Island is a summer read with substance. It’s the perfect beach read, but there’s so much more to this book than some typical beach reads. On the Island will make you laugh and cry. It will make you think. This book has a heart. There is a lot of love within its pages, and sometimes, when all the odds are stacked against you, just like with Anna and T.J., all you need is love to get you through. 


Win a copy of On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves!
> This competition is open internationally!
> Winner will be announced on the Rafflecopter form on the blog and also notified by email.
> Winner will have 72 hours to reply to my email with their details. If I don't get a response in that time, I'll have to choose a new winner. 


  1. I am so excited to get reading my copy now. I've seen this book around and it sounded good from the blurb on the back, but now after reading how much heart this book has I'm totally ready to pick it up.

    Great review!

  2. What an amazing and insightful review! I really loved On The Island! Graves wrote with maturity and sincerity.

  3. Sounds very interesting. I have read some other reviews for this book and a lot of them were raving about it. Love the cover. :)

  4. It sounds like a great read. I have read many reviews on this book, and it is currently marked as a Goodread To read! Would love to win. mmalavec(at)med(dot)umich(dot)edu

  5. Great Review

    Please put me into the draw - thank you xx

  6. This does sound good! I like the survival story. The cover reminds me of Elin Hilderbrand's books. Thanks for the giveaway :)

  7. Great review, Leanna! From the moment I read your first post about this book, I was hooked. It seems like the perfect summer read and I love that you said it has substance.  Plus, the Maldives? Yes, please!

  8. I've been dying to read this book!  Would love to win a copy.  It sounds like such an unusual but sweet love story and story of survival.  I love those type.  Thanks for the review!  

  9. I really must read this book.  It sounds better with every review I read.  Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

  10. I'm so curious about this book, I read a lot of amazing things about and I can't wait to learn more. I'm glad you enjoyed it, thanks for the review and the giveaway!

  11. I am so intrigued by this book. Sounds really great.


    Note: when tweeting about the contest, it mentions another book, not this one, although the actual link is to this contest

  12.  Thanks for letting me know! It's fixed now. :)

  13. Hi! Sounds like a neat book to read! Thanks for the review and giveaway. :)

  14. ON THE ISLAND does look like a wonderful read. Thank you for your review.

  15. I have heard really good things about this book. I keep telling myself I need to just pick up a copy. 

  16. Fantastic review as usual! I've heard of this book way before the physical copies were published. I'm glad that I waited until they come out because I've been meaning to read it but I knew that I'd want a copy for my shelf. 

  17. So glad this was a hit with you Leanna!  You are SO right, this book has a heart. I love how authentic and real this story feels, like Anna and TJ really are out there in the world somewhere. I'm not usually a fan of survivalist stories but I would'nt really lump On the Island into that category, though it does have the necessary requirements to be there. It's really a story about two people getting to know each other and the trials they face coming together and staying together. 

    Beautiful review:)

  18.  Yes, I loved it too! I thought the relationship was handled really well. :)

  19.  You so need to add this one to your summer reading list for next year! :)

  20.  Thanks, Heather! I really enjoyed this one -- it was thanks to your review that I got to know about the book! :)

  21. With that review, I am psyched to get started with this one!

  22. You are right. When I read the story I though it a little taboo. But reading all these amazing reviews, yours included, I think I will have to read it in order to have an opinion.
    Thank you for the international giveaway :)

  23. Wow - what an incredible review Leanna. I must say that I do enjoy books
    that explores taboo and controversial subjects, but for some or other
    reason I've been a bit hesitant with this one. I've just changed my mind
    though - Anna and T.J sound like characters I'd absolutely adore. I'm
    also really keen to see read more about the survival aspects of this
    book, especially considering the fact that they're not only battling
    nature's elements but also the possibility that T.J's cancer may return.


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