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Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. 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.

BOOK REVIEW: On the Island

Tracey Garvis Graves

Book Series: 


“I love you, Anna.”
“You weren’t supposed to fall in love.”

This book was on my radar for a while because of its overwhelmingly positive reviews but I just couldn’t quite start reading it – the premise was simply bugging me too much. I have no issue with age differences but this one seemed to be quite substantial (13 years) and one of the characters is under-aged when the story starts. HOWEVER, I got over my initial prejudice and started reading it – thank God I did! This is one of the nicest love stories I have ever had the pleasure to read. The writing style is quite unique, I call it “fluff-free” because it focuses on narrating the story without long-winded scenery descriptions or internal monologues. It covers a long-ish time span and it does so quite effectively without making you feel cheated out of anything. You get to follow the events through both points of view and you are offered an insight into both the main characters, T.J. and Anna. And you fall in love with them.

“What’s it like being with her? Is it true what they say about older chicks?”
“She’s not that much older.”
“Uh, okay. So anyway, how is it?”
“It’s incredible.”
“What’s she do?”
“She does everything, Ben.”

The theme of age difference is slowly forgotten because what happens in the book and the characters’ reactions to all those events make it an obsolete issue after a while. All you see are these two people who find themselves in horrific circumstances and who are stripped of everything but their humanity, courage and ability to love. Their fight for survival is incredible but it all falls second to the bond and genuine affection that is created between them. And then the world finds out about their relationship and they are faced with everyone’s prejudice. So, one minute I was frowning upon their age difference and the next I was cheering for them like a mad one-woman cheering squad. This is what this book does to you. It changes your perceptions, it opens your mind to situations you would have normally dismissed without giving them a second thought, and it gives you a beautiful story of love and courage that stays with you long after you finish reading (or re-reading) it.

I cannot recommend this book enough! It went immediately on my list of all-time favourites and I plan to re-read it often. It’s become my own personal happy pill.

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“I don't fit in your world."
"Neither do I. So let's make our own. We've done it before.”

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On the Island - Recommended Reading Order

(Uncharted is a companion novella)


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