On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves
This book has had a lot of buzz. It was self-published and through word of mouth has had significant sales. It is highly rated and I guess the reason I read it was because it was dirt cheap on Bookbubs and there were many positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I should have known better. It is not my type of book but it may be the perfect thing to curl up in your beach chair with this summer
At the heart of the story is a 30 something year old English teacher (Anna) who was hired by a family to tutor their teenage son (T.J.) for the summer. He had missed a great deal of school due to cancer treatments. The two of them are on a small plane to an island in the Maldives (doesn’t every American family spend their summer vacation in the Maldives rather than the Hamptons?) when the pilot has a heart attack, the plane crashes and the two of them are stranded on a desert island for several years.
The whole idea of a love affair between a teacher in her thirties and a teenager creeps me out and reminds me of Mary Jane Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. While the author carefully constructs her story to try and make it less icky, she didn’t fully succeed in my opinion as it always nagged at me. The actual sexual relationship conveniently doesn’t occur until T.J. is almost 19 so it is officially legal and when they do get back to civilization, Anna, recognizing that they are at different stages of life, leaves T.J. so he can have the normal life experiences of a twenty-year-old. I guess there are plenty of relationships out there where the male is 13 years older than a young teenage female that folk consider ok but I don’t care for those either. It was difficult for me to buy into the love story because of the age gap.
If you can get past all of this, there are other challenging issues with the novel. While the pair struggles to survive on the island, Anna’s suitcase miraculously washes up on shore containing all the personal products they will need for years as well as earrings that they can use to fish. Friendly dolphins save T.J. from sharks (Island of the Blue Dolphins anyone?). T.J. survives a devastating viral attack with nothing other than Tylenol. Once they get off the island, Anna is fired from her teaching job due to the relationship but she gets a settlement from the charter plane company that basically sets her up for life without lifting a finger. The list goes on. Every little problem just seems to have a short pat solution.
After finishing the novel, I was left wanting a lot more but it was an easy read and won’t require any intellectual effort on the part of those looking for a book at the beach.