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Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

5 Stars!!!

WOW. SO DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED!!! Beautiful, real and moving.

It’s been a long while since I finished a book the same day I started it, but I did with this. I couldn’t put On the Island down! Even though I was meant to be doing work at home, this past weekend. I was THAT hooked!!


Sometime last year, I saw many 5-Star reviews for this book, and I added it, just waiting for the right time for when I was in the mood for a Blue Lagoon type of story.

I have to admit, though, I felt a little bit concerned about how I would feel about the huge age difference between the characters, which caused me quite a bit of discomfort, before I started, as I try my best not to discriminate. I shouldn’t have worried, though - or doubted my Goodreads friends who loved this - as author Tracey Garvis-Graves does an excellent job of building and unfolding this touchingly beautiful story of a 30-year old teacher and summer tutor, Anna Emerson, and 16-year old cancer survivor, T.J. Callahan, who become stranded on a deserted, uninhabited Maldivian island when their seaplane crashes.

Anna and T.J. are stuck on the island for quite a few years and they go through many harrowing hardships, together, and quite a few seriously life-threatening ones. As they both fight for survival, battling hunger, thirst, the elements, boredom, missing their families, predators and disease, they form an understandably close bond.

As T.J. turns from boy to man, through trusting each other with their lives, hopes and dreams, relying on each other, mutual respect and affection, and feeling as if they would spend the rest of their lives alone on that island, their relationship eventually develops to another level. They realise how they wouldn’t have survived if not for having the other and how happy they make each other.

A debut novel? No way! This was WONDERFUL! Ms Garvis-Graves draws the reader in and doesn’t let go. The alternating first person point-of-views gives the reader valuable insights into, and a strong sense of connection to, both characters as one is transported onto the island with them. The incorporation of certain global events also made the story feel more grounded in reality and my heart broke again recalling that particular moment in time.

On the Island began as a self-published ebook and Ms Garvis-Graves has now sold the foreign rights to it to more than 20 countries. I understand the movie rights to it have also been sold. Very excited for the movie and I hope the makers do it justice!

I loved both Anna and T.J. Both of them, for their tenacity and determination. Anna, for her understanding and care for T.J.; how she treated him as an equal and not a child. T.J., for his maturity, strength, pragmatism, honesty and just his utter sweetness. Having battled death a number of times, T.J. knew what he wanted, and he wanted Anna. What starts as a boy’s crush and friendship turns into so much more, over the years, and while Anna battles to do right by T.J., she is surprised by how this young man makes her feel valued, wanted and respected as a woman as she never has before.

On the Island is such a beautiful love story, which would never have developed under different circumstances. But how would the real world treat their love and how would it survive off the island?

Okay, there were a few things that seemed just TOO convenient, like Anna’s suitcase, with quite a bit of soap and shampoo supplies, a first aid kit, etc. washing up on shore from the plane wreckage. Of course, it could also be realistic, depending on the current patterns around that island. Considering how much of the things from the plane wreck did wash back up on the island, I’ll go with that scientific explanation! Yes, I’m showing my geekiness and also my willingness to suspend disbelief. LOL Considering all the traumatic things that Anna and T.J. go through, I was very happy for all the things that washed up to make the primitive life on the island just that little bit easier for them and assisted in their survival. :-)

I learnt what an "atoll" is - a coral island (or islands) that encircles a lagoon partially or completely - and how Maldives has many of them.

Malhosmadulhu Atoll seen from space. 
"Fasdutere" and Southern Maalhosmadulhu Atoll can be seen in this picture.
So beautiful!

The epilogue brought tears to my eyes and I had a big grin on my face, in the end. This is definitely a keeper.


I happened to hear this song the very next day after reading this, entitled Moments, written by the very talented Ed Sheeran, and sung by One Direction. It’s become T.J.’s song to Anna for me. :-)


One of my favourite quotes:

In February, I woke up from a nap. A bouquet of flowers gathered from the various bushes and shrubs scattered around the island lay on the blanket beside me, a small length of rope wound around their stems.
I found T.J. down at the shore. “Someone’s been checking the calendar.”
He grinned. “I didn’t want to miss Valentine’s Day.”
I kissed him. “You’re sweet to me.”
Pulling me closer, he said, “It’s not hard, Anna.”
I stared into T.J.’s eyes, and he started to sway. My arms went around his neck and we danced, moving in a circle, the sand soft and warm under our feet.
“You don’t need music, do you?”
“No,” T.J. said. “But I do need you.”’


  1. I loved this book a lot! You did a wonderfull review, I completely agree with everything you said ;). Oh, and the pictures you posted are beautiful!!!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Cassio! I loved this book a lot, too! I've added it to my favourites shelf. I haven't written a review in a while and I just had to write this one. It's been so long since I read a book in one day. So good. :-)

    I haven't seen you in a while. How have you been, Cassio? How's life in Spain? :-)

  3. YES! This is one of those books that can only sell by word of mouth because the book blurb just doesn't sell it. Teenager hooking up with his teacher? Umm ... But it totally works!

    have you heard the back story, that this was originally self-published and then signed with Penguin based on reviews? And movie rights have been sold. :)

  4. Very true, Rach! The glowing reviews from my Goodreads friends was what sold this to me, but even then, I was still a bit hesitant...and then I took the plunge, and SOOOO GLAD I did!! :-)

    I did know it started as self-published. I didn't know it was the glowing reviews of it that helped it get signed with Penguin, or that it was being made into a movie. Thanks for that info! I'll add that to my review. :-)

  5. Yes, I know I've been away for a long time, mostly due to work (which I should be thankful for because in Spain the situation is difficult economic and labour wise).

    How's everything in Australia? I've heard in the news that you have a lot of fires there, which is a shame.

    As for "On the Island" I'm happy the rights have been sold. I would love to see this book come to life in a movie ;).

  6. Hi Cassio,

    Oh, yes, I know about work keeping one busy. That's why I hadn't posted many reviews, last year. Work was incredibly busy, and then being Creative Partner to my hubby in his photoshoots, on the weekends. He is very talented at portraiture (with a fashion flare) and we hope to build a small business. :-) Then, I've also been working on my own creative outlet, in my free time, with my photography and writing poetry.

    I'm really glad you have work especially with Spain's current situation, Cassio!

    Yes, we have had some incredibly hot days. We had a some days of 42C-45C. I really feel for those in the effected fire areas.

    This week is wonderful weather, though - mid-20's Celsius. :-)

    Me, too! I hope the movie-makers do it justice.

  7. Hi again Lady Jayne,

    Sorry it took me some time to answer (busy again at work). I wish you two a lot of luck with that small business. And I hope the weather is not as hot as it was weeks ago ;). Here in Spain it's been cold (I even catched a cold), but now its better. Cheers ;)!!