Release Date: July 10, 2012
Source of my copy: publisher
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.
I kept seeing the cover of On the Island but I never read its synopsis until its publisher Plume offered me a copy for review. After I read synopsis I was sure I wasn't going like it mostly because I'm not a fan of the older woman/younger man romance trope. But after reading the glowing reviews both on Goodreads and Amazon, I grew very curious and said (albeit hesitantly) yes to a review copy.
I ended up LOVING On the Island.
Here are five reasons why:
1. The author's writing style is very readable. It has an effortless quality to it in which you can easily slip into and not realize the number of pages you have turned.
2. Initially, my biggest turn-off of this book was the fourteen-year difference between Anna and T.J. but the younger man/older woman trope here works. Trust me. There was never any "ick" factor to their relationship. There was no insta-love between them, instead their relationship was built on deep, genuine friendship and understanding. By the end of the novel, I wanted a T.J. of my own.
3. I genuinely liked both T.J. and Anna and grew to care for them. The story was told in alternating first-person POVs and I really like getting inside both Anna and T.J.'s heads.
4. I found the entire story exciting and un-putdownable. It basically had three parts: before the plane went down, while they were stranded on the island (they had to figure out how they'll sustain themselves with limited resources, survive typhoons, a shark attack, illness and other craziness) and when they were finally rescued after three years and they must deal with the media frenzy, living with people again and whether their unconventional love will survive the "real world." Once I started reading, it was hard to put the book down.
5. Days after I finished reading On the Island, I was still thinking of Anna and T.J. The novel is now sitting on my keepers shelf--it is going to be one of those books that I will pick up a few times a year just to re-read my favorite parts.
On the Island was by no means without flaws. There were a few scenes and situations on the island where one must suspend disbelief (I admit I did some google-ing). Also, the edition I read was published by Plume/Penguin (it was originally a self-published novel) but from what I understand ten days after they acquired the novel, they rushed to print. That's probably why I found a couple of very minor typos--no big deal, but they are there.
On the whole, On the Island was an amazing read and it pretty much blew my socks off. I had a hard time putting it down. I highly recommend you pick it up if you haven't already. It's the perfect summer read... but you'll also want to re-read it later on.