Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

Title: On the Island 

Author: Tracey Garvis-Graves

Rating: 3.5 Stars 

On the Island is a novel I finished with one thought: "why the hype?" Sure, it's a great love story, well-written, and keeps you flipping the pages, but does it really deserve all the hype it has gotten since its release? I don't think so; I've certainly read more profound and deep romance novels before and while I certainly feel as if On the Island offers something new to this rather - admit it - formulaic genre, it wasn't anything mind-blowing in the least. Nevertheless, there is something to be said of a novel that takes hold of you and doesn't let you set it down until you're finished with it and while I may not love On the Island, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the lives of these three-dimensional characters that Garvis-Graves has created.

Anna, a thirty-year-old English school teacher, and T.J., a sixteen-year-old cancer survivor, are on their way to a summer of learning where T.J. will (hopefully!) catch up on the academic education he missed while being treated for his cancer. When their pilot suffers a heart attack, however, their plane lands and now the two are stranded on a beach, alone and without any means of survival. Against all odds, however, these two do survive - for three years in fact. While the first-half of this novel, the survival story part, wasn't overly impressive to me, the second-half detailing Anna and T.J.'s slow return to human civilization and their difficulties in coping with a relationship with such a huge age gap in-between them, certainly was.

You see, the first-half of this story requires a certain suspension of belief on the readers part. For me, at least, survival novels or programs always have a quality of unreality about them as often times, I can't fully grasp that something that bizarre could really happen - or that humans could survive through all that. Thus, some of the events in the first-half of this novel seemed a little too convenient or implausible, but that might just be me. It was still an extremely engaging first-half, even though I wasn't completely on board with romance either. It is a slow-developing type of love story, which I normally enjoy, but I felt somehow detached from this one. Perhaps it was the fact that this love story started out as lust; T.J. is a growing teen and when a grown, attractive woman is parading around in her bikini in a hot island, he is bound to want her. Similarly, a woman who has been estranged from civilization for three years and sees a boy grow into an attractive man in front of her eyes is going to want him too. Thus, their love story seemed to breed out of circumstance and physical attraction and while these two certainly did understand each other, I never felt as if it was one of those "meant to be" or truly fated romance. After all, when two people only have each other for three years, love is, once again, just bound to happen.

It was only when T.J. and Anna finally were rescued and forced to acknowledge their relationship in the face of society and its norms that I finally grew to love these two as a couple. While their interactions on the island were forced since they only had each other to rely on, the steady manner in which they both made an effort to make their relationship work outside of necessity, since they did truly love each other, completely won me over. It was all very realistically portrayed, with Anna having to deal with potentially never being hired as a teacher again, T.J. having to catch up on his education and find a job, Anna wanting to start a family since she was gradually getting older and older, T.J. trying to discover himself all over was all achingly real and the age gap between these two made this novel one that readers of varied ages will be able to relate to on a very personal level.

Thus, while I wouldn't call On the Island an excellent survival story - because I have read better, although the survival aspects of this were remarkable feats to endure - I will admit that it is a worth-while love story. T.J. and Anna face so many hurdles in their relationship and to see them work over it, come to understand each other, give each other space, etc., was heart-warming. More than anything else, it was that that eventually made me fall in love with this story. Although I don't believe On the Island is quite as impressive as much of the hype suggests, I do think it's a romance all contemporary fans should read, simply because it is so different from anything else out there and its characters feel so very real. Garvis-Graves has another novel ready for publication this summer and while I may not be the first person in line to get my hands on it, I'm already looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.


  1. I think reading a novel that has had a lot of hype makes my opinion suffer a little. It's always hard to live up to. I loved this romance and yes, I didn't think they were soul-mates or meant-to-be or anything. Their romance happened because of circumstance. BUT to share such a monumental event forges a bond that no other can share,IMO. Glad to see you enjoyed this overall, Keertana. :)

  2. I KNOW! I read this one in one sitting too and quite liked it, you know, but then I promptly forgot all about it until just now. I hardly think it deserves all the hype. I agree that it breaks away fro a very formulaic (sub)genre, and that the writing isn't half bad (although certainly not memorable either), but I don't think all the attention it got is justified.
    I think my rating was the same as yours, but I can't remember even that. :))

    BEautiful review, darling!

  3. Oh, I'm sorry that this book let you down a little, Keertana! After hype surroundings a book, it's just natural to have skyrocket hope on that book. I think I would enjoy the survival thing more than you though. I have strange attraction to the whole suspended-in-lonely-island-with-nothing-to-help-you thing. ;) Glad that you seem to enjoy this in overall though! Wonderful review, hun. :)

  4. I'm reluctant with the age gap issue. It's true that age is just number. What matters is maturity. I'm not sure that a sixteen year old has the maturity to hold a relationship with a thirty something woman. But maybe that's because I haven't read this book yet though.

    Still, it's great you enjoyed it despite thinking it's not THAT great of a book.

    Great review, Keertana :D

  5. I know what you mean out this one, Keertana. I think I rated it higher than you but it really was a book that won me over because it kept me turning pages, always worrying what would happen next, rather than a masterpiece of storytelling.

    And yes, I do think that their getting together on the island was more a matter of circumstance and a situation where they grew close because they were under extreme duress, yet there is something really sweet about their love story. It does seem implausible that it could withstand the return home, but I really like that it ended like it did. Great review!

  6. Oh my goodness, I think you're the only friend I have who didn't gush with 4/5 stars. I felt very similarly about it--it was a pleasant read, but not one that I'd pull out as being exceptional in either the romance or the survival aspects. But the May-December part was done pretty well, imo.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  7. Keertana! I definitely remember MAKING you read this book months ago.. and I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. Perhaps not as much as I did, but the aspects that you did-- I certainly agree with. I think that it's safe to say that the book IS divided into 2 parts: the survival part, and the return back to civilization. For me, the first half was more engaging, but, like you, a bit lust-involved. The second half was definitely slower, but the real romance develops there. This is a beautiful review, Keertana! Thanks for your honest thoughts. :)

  8. I'm with you. I liked the book pretty well, but I don't quite get the hype over it. It's a good story but I thought the end went on longer than necessary and I like stories that are well wrapped up. Still a good book though!

  9. What I loved about this book is that when I started it I could not see how this author could convince me of the relationship between TJ and Anna. But then I really grew to love them together. Of course it was convenience and how much they relied on each other at first, but there's no way they would have gotten together without those circumstances. I agree with you, that the best part of this story is that the author took the characters past the island and into their real lives and showed us how their relationship played out in society. That made this book shine. Though it didn't blow you away, I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

  10. See, I really love survival stories, and yet this is one that never really appealed to me in any regard, and so I'm happy to see you say it's fine but not really worth the hype. I do think the examination of this relationship after it's no longer a necessity is really interesting, but at the same time, I don't think this combination of elements is what I look for in either a survival or a romance story. I'm just not sure that mashing would work for me.


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