On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book was chosen as Book-of-the-Month in a Goodreads group I am part of; the likelihood of my picking up and reading this book on my own was extremely low. Despite that, because I have been feeling guilty about not keeping up with the monthly pick, I decided to make a concerted effort to read it.
Before I read the book, I took a quick peek at the non-spoilery reviews and saw that most were 4 or 5 stars. 'This is good sign,' I thought.
After finishing the novel, my first thought was, How in the world are people giving this 4 or 5 stars???
For lack of better terms, I would say plainly that this novel is exactly what it appears to be. There is nothing surprising or deep in it. What you see is precisely what you get.
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
The two main characters are Anna and T.J. Anna is a 30-year-old private tutor who has committed her summer to helping T.J., a 17-year-old boy, catch up with his school work. T.J. has just recovered from leukemia.
They catch a plane to some tropical location where the rest of T.J.'s family is waiting for them. After switching to a small seaplane, they begin the final stage of the journey. However, as misfortune would have it, their pilot suffers from a massive heart attack and crashes the plane into the sea.
(This is one example of poor character and plot development. They're sitting in this tiny plane when Anna notices that their heavily obese pilot is sweating and having chest pain. Her father had suffered through a large heart attack so she knew how to recognize the first signs of an M.I. My first instinct would be to use the radio to get a hold of someone ASAP or ask the pilot to scooch over and let me take a crack at flying.)
Their plane crashes and the two main characters eventually wash up onto a small uninhabited island. They begin what will be three and a half long years stranded from civilization and creature comforts.
The strength of the human spirit becomes obvious as they build shelter, collect wood for their ever-burning fire, fish and gather fruit... They find a skeleton in a cave and spend a small amount of time exploring.
There are extremely ludicrous and laughable parts to their sojourn, but the worst is probably the Shark Situation.
At one point a nine foot shark begins to terrorize the lagoon that they bathe and swim in. T.J. makes a plan to hook the shark on a line and pull him onto land, effectively killing him. (I'm not sure why these two smart people would think they could reel in a nine foot shark, considering the sheer weight of those beasts, but that's what makes it so ludicrous.)
They go out into the lagoon, bait the shark with a wild chicken they have found running around on the island, and when it begins hooked onto their flimsy line, they quickly realize that it was a bad idea and attempt to swim out of the lagoon, away from the shark.
Just when it seems like they are about to be eaten, a family of dolphins that T.J. and Anna occasionally swim with come to the rescue and coral the shark toward the shallows, beaching him and causing death.
Yes, it really is as ridiculous as it sounds. It was unbearable to read.
And the taboo romance. Anna is T.J.'s intended teacher and there is a 13 year age gap between them...but of course, because they are alone and need comfort, eventually there is a consummation of their relationship and they fall in love. It's all quite tepid.
Finally, after years spent on the island, a tsunami sweeps through the area of the ocean and rescue helicopters doing routine searches find the two of them. They are saved. What a relief.
Reality quickly sets in though. On the island the two of them had a strong relationship, mainly because there was nothing to influence it. Once the media gets wind of the story, they portray Anna in negative light, attempting to create a sordid story out of their relationship. She is pictured as preying upon her young student, when they both insist that he was 19 when they first became physical.
Oh no! Their relationship can't handle the heat and both turn to go their separate ways. Because it's a predictable novel, they each dabble in finding themselves before ultimately reuniting. The end.
The novel has an interesting premise. The exploration into a potentially taboo relationship is probably what has drawn so many women into reading this novel. It's also a very easy and quick read--I finished it in a couple hours.
The time spent on the island passes quickly as you read the book. It certainly doesn't feel like three and a half years.
Unfortunately, even though the plot was decent, the characters remained sadly underdeveloped. I also cannot emphasize enough how horrible the dialogue between the characters was; it was like reading Sweet Valley High or Goosebumps.
There is a rumour that the book may be developed into a movie. Hopefully whoever is chosen to write the script does a better job than the author with regards to the conversations between the characters.
The character beings undeveloped was probably the biggest obstacle for me. Neither seem to possess any deep emotions or thoughts, and when they DO choose to express themselves it comes as very cliched. More time should have been spent building up their relationship and having them become intimate emotionally.
I gave this book two stars because it was OKAY. It wasn't wonderful, I learned nothing new from it, my emotions weren't touch and I definitely didn't SOB over it as other women have stated they did while reading it.
If you're looking for a fluffy summer read that lacks quality, this may be exactly what you're looking for.
View all my reviews