Review: On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves


A love story with a twist, Tracey Garvis Graves’ On The Island is a US word-of-mouth success story to rival Fifty Shades of Grey, with 1500 5* reader reviews online (and counting!) and sales taking it top 10 in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and bestseller lists. Film rights have been optioned by MGM, with Temple Hill Productions (responsible for Twilight) slated to produce.


On The Island is Tracey Garvis Graves’ first novel – and was originally independently published before being snapped up by Penguin.


Anna, a thirty year old English teacher, is offered a summer job tutoring a teenaged boy. Not ready to face the ending she knows is coming to her struggling relationship, Anna is quick to accept. The fact that the posting is at the family’s holiday home in the Maldives is icing on the cake. T.J is about to turn seventeen; it is his first summer in remission from cancer and he decidedly does not want to spend it being caught up on all the things he’s missed at school during his illness.


Anna and T.J are on the last leg of their journey to the Maldives when their pilot suffers a heart-attack and their plane crashes into the Indian Ocean. Against the odds, the two passengers manage to survive, and the current eventually takes them to an uninhabited island, where they must work together to obtain food, water and shelter. The days turn into weeks, into months, and then into years. T.J becomes a man and the dynamic of their relationship starts to change…


On The Island is not a read for the faint-hearted. Everything is intense and emotional and from the minute that plane crashes you are very aware of the very real peril that the two protagonists are in. Not only can malnutrition or dehydration kill them, but the smallest cut could become infected, tropical storms could ruin what little shelter and civilisation they’ve built up, and  – hanging over them all the time – T.J’s cancer could return. Oh yes, and there are sharks. Sharks!!


The story is told through alternating point-of-view chapters, so you get a real feel and empathy for both Anna and T.J. Their romance is taboo twice over – not only is Anna close to twice T.J’s age, but she was meant to be his teacher. Personally, I usually find ‘taboo’ relationships uncomfortable to read (too much drama and pain, not enough actual romance!) but this pairing is beautiful, their growing love for one another odd, but real. Although you know that it’s only circumstance that has brought this relationship about, it doesn’t cheapen it at all.


On The Island subscribes to the very realistic world-view that life is messy and love is inconvenient, and that sometimes, there are sharks.

5/5 stars – highly recommended.


On The Island on and Goodreads.


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