December 25, 2014

Thursday Oldie: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
Source: bought paperback
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: Aug 16, 2012
Age Genre: Adult
Originally published: July 14, 2013
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 can't--how will I--I just--okay. *Takes a deep breathe*. Give me a second here, this book makes me a little crazy. *pulls herself together* Alright, I'm ready. I can do this. Let's start.

I started On the Island one day at midnight. I was having a slight case of insomnia, and wanted to pass time a bit and maybe tire my brain out so I could sleep. I had no idea what I was getting into, because this book was un-put-down-able. Once I started, it was a race to the finish line, and at 16 minutes past four a.m, I flipped the last page of the book. But if you think this is where it ended, you're wrong - I proceeded to be plagued by the characters of this story throughout the night, and the following weeks and months. They just wouldn't let go

For me, this book is pure magic

T.J and Anna go through one hell of an ordeal, but everything that happens on the island... everything that happens between them, was just magical. Some of their adventures had a fairytale feel to them, while still being realistic. 

My heart broke more times than I am comfortable with throughout the book, but never for the same reason. There were just too many feels attacking me. From all directions. All at once. And I lost. 
On the Island doesn't describe a situation that takes a few days to resolve, or even a few months. At the end of things (if I don't consider the freakin' amazing epilogue), the book spans about four and a half years. That on its own is pretty unique, especially considering the horrifying epidemic of insta-love in literature.

The way the book moved, we'd sometimes jump a year in time just because on the island, nothing changed. Everything is the same, an inescapable routine, until the next hurdle comes along to punch you in the face and put your life hanging in the balance. Or, occasionally, bring something amazing to you.

And personally, I thought that was the perfect way to handle the long period the book covers.

And the characters? God, don't get me started. They were simply incredible. Anna and T.J both felt so real, and each held a unique voice. 

Watching T.J grow and became a man on the island was such an overwhelming experience, because you can really see it happen, right in front of you. He was always a kid who knew how to adapt, a kid who knew death, but somewhere along the way, T.J becomes the rock that holds him and Anna afloat. And he is a very swoon worthy rock, I'll tell you that.

Anna is both strong and weak, but that's part of who she is. She cries easily and get scared a lot, but she can hold her own and can and will fight for the her life and T.J's. She takes care of what's hers. Actually, I think that's the best description for her - a caretaker. She is not a kickass heroine and don't expect her to be one, but I for one didn't begrudge her that for a minute.
And the romance between them?
Hold your horses, folks. Don't get all crazy about the age gap thing. Chill. Yes, there are thirteen years between them, and it sounds disturbing when you hear it, but it's really not, for a few reasons.

First, we never got to see T.J as a 'kid'. When we meet him, he is already mature beyond his years because of the illness he overcame. By the time he leaves the island, he is easily as old as Anna mentally. He's a full grown man. And because we spend half the book inside his head, we know and feel this fact better than anyone.

Second, they're meant for each other. Pure and simple.

The island drafted an unbreakable bond between these two. They saw the absolute best and absolute worst in each other. They know each other on the deepest level possible. First, they become best friends. After that... well, you can't go through such an ordeal and leave without a mark. Their mark is love. 

And, trust me, you'll fall together with them, and you will not be able to fault them for a minute. So don't let the words "age-gap" deter you from giving their life story a shot. 

I know it's crazy to speak of a fictional story as if it's real, but I kind of feel like the entire crash was done by god to give these two a chance, because otherwise they'd have never come together and maybe married the wrong people. I know, I know, it's strange, but...
Last thing I feel like I have to mention is the epilogue. I think it was probably the most fantastic epilogue I've ever read. At the top of my top ten, anyways (as is this book in general).

And if all of my hysterical gushing isn't enough to get you to read this book, I genuinely have no idea what will - but I feel sad you'll never experience this intoxicating story. That you will never let it engulf you. This is a mesmerizing debut, and I cannot recommend it enough.


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