Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

Book info:

format: mobi
Genre: adventure, romance
Target audience: adults

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.

What I liked:
The story – as simple as that. Although the premise made me think immediately of Castaway movie with Tom Hanks, I was soon made so curious about the future of both protagonists that I kept reading until the very end. The plot was thought out in a really good way and, to my delight, it didn’t finish with the rescue, which I kind of expected. The pace of narration doesn’t slow down for a moment – I literally swallowed the book in two evenings. The author tells her story using alternatively two POVs: that of Anna and T.J. She isn’t shunning difficult topics like age disparity or hormonal turmoil of a teenager becoming an adult.
The best part was the changing relationship between Anna and T.J. It was described in a very realistic, mature way and still the author managed to end the book with a HEA. Both characters were presented with their flaws and advantages; they never acted strangely (read: in a stupid way) and their reactions were logical.
What I didn’t like:
First of all it is clearly a debut novel and it is felt. The style could have been more polished Some dialogs seemed a bit wooden. The characters overused their Christian names too much, sometimes stating obvious things over and over again..
I didn’t appreciate jumps in the narration timeline either (like: three years later or two years later, I hate those); in fact it was perhaps the very feature that disturbed me the most. I suppose the book would be far better without them, even if it was a bit longer/ more complicated.
Cover:
A bit generic but fitting. I like those blues.
Final verdict:
A good story but rather shabbily told. If you like romance novels you might appreciate it better than me. Still not a bad novel for a debutting author.
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