Hi and Welcome to my stop on the ON THE ISLAND Blog Tour! The tour is being hosted by A Tale of Many Reviews Book Tours. I am so, so excited to be involved in this tour, you have no idea. My stop includes a review, followed by an excerpt, and a giveaway of a copy of ON THE ISLAND, signed by author Tracey Garvis-Graves.
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. ~From GoodReads
Every once in a while, if you're lucky, you get a chance to read a truly remarkable story. A book that reaches your very core and shifts something deep inside you. A book that makes you laugh, well up with tears, burst out sobbing, and most importantly, refuses to be put down. A book that upon completion, you start all over again because you just can't bear to let go of the feeling the took over as you read it. ON THE ISLAND was this book for me.
This is a difficult review to write. I would absolutely love to sit here and dish with each of you exactly what happens to Anna and T.J. in the time they spend on the island. How (or if) they both manage to survive, how their relationship evolves, if they ever leave the island... But that would be a huge disservice to the story, and to you as future readers. My friend April read the book before I did. When she finished, I begged her for any little detail because I just didn't have time to read it then. She (thankfully) refused, telling me that I needed to read the story to understand how she was feeling, that anything she told me would be a spoiler. She was so right. ON THE ISLAND must be experienced to be understood.
But here's what I can talk about: the characters and the author's wonderful writing. From the moment I opened ON THE ISLAND, I was held captive. Tracey Garvis-Graves' words command your attention from the very first sentence and do not let up. Something about Anna, her voice, felt so "real" to me. She's a real person; she might be your best friend, or the young woman sitting next to you, maybe she actually feels a bit like you. And T.J. A lot of sixteen year old guys in books can be a bit crass, or a jerk, annoying. T.J., maybe because he's already stared his mortality in the face, is none of those things. Possibly it's because he knows what is important in life, but maybe it's just his nature. Even though he is a complete and lovable sweetheart, he doesn't come across as fake or "too good to be true". He has emotions and reactions any teenage guy would, if stuck on an island with his totally hot tutor. It was an honest treat to watch this boy become a man.
Tracey Garvis-Graves' is a skilled, very gifted author. She took this story about survival, and made it into a remarkable story that became so much more. She explores every emotion the characters inevitably face: the horror at what is happening to them, the hope of recovery, the determination to survive, the bleak despair over the lives they've lost and what their families must be undergoing, the comfort and safety of friendship and trust. And don't think Garvis-Graves takes the easy way out for her characters. Life on the island, while beautiful, is brutal and harsh. The lives of Anna and T.J. should never be taken for granted by the reader.
And here's the thing. Tracey Garvis-Graves proves you don't have to re-invent the wheel to write a great book. All you need is a talent to create engaging, lasting characters and an ability to enthrall your readers. So many books have too much. Too many characters, too many arcs in the story, too many "bells and whistles" so to speak. ON THE ISLAND, is at it's very core, a simple story. The concept of being stranded on a deserted island isn't a new one . But with the characters she created, the fact they are two very different people at two very different stages in their lives, how they expanded and evolved..this story becomes truly remarkable.
You guys, I read this book with a knot in my throat. I went from fear for Anna and T.J, to smiles when one of them would say or do something cute to the other. I cried... a lot. Mostly they were happy tears (for various, not to be revealed reasons!), or tears of relief, but sometimes simply because the characters were overwhelmed by emotions that I shared along with them. Believe it or not, I've had tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat most of the time I've been writing this review. But I don't want you to think ON THE ISLAND wasn't a fun book. It really was. The way Anna and T.J. interact while forging a life on the island, the scenarios between them that were a tiny bit awkward but mostly laugh-out-loud funny had me giggling as I read. While reading this, I kept thinking of Castaway, one of my favorite movies ever, and The Blue Lagoon, a classic to people my age. And I seriously did live updates for my husband, who doesn't like to read novels, but wanted to know what was happening to make me act so crazy.
ON THE ISLAND was exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. It's the perfect storm of plot, characters, and supreme writing. I took ON THE ISLAND to finish in bed, thinking I would read the last half and have a wonderful night's sleep having read a great book. Here's what actually happened: I did finish the last half of the book, then proceeded to cry from sheer happiness. But then...I turned back to page one and read the entire book all over again! The second time was a quick read-through, but once again, after the last page...I busted out crying again! Now granted, it was 3am at this point and a tiny bit may be attributed to exhaustion, but I'm pretty sure it was the book. I woke up the next morning, and ON THE ISLAND was the first thing on my mind. If that doesn't tell you what an amazing book it is, I don't know what will. ON THE ISLAND has become my gold-standard, the book I won't even compare most others to because they won't stand a chance. I'm not exaggerating one little bit when I say that it has etched it's way into my All-Time Favorites list.
(I have so many favorites, they're way too spoilery!)
"I was thirty years old when the seaplane T.J. Callahan and I were traveling on crash-landed in the Indian Ocean. T.J. was sixteen, and three months into remission from Hodgkin's lymphoma. The pilot's name was Mick, but he died before we hit the water." (pg. 7)
Published October 11th 2011
You can purchase ON THE ISLAND at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords
You can find the lovely and amazing Tracey Garvis-Graves at:
her website | Twitter | GoodReads | Facebook
Now...an amazing excerpt from ON THE ISLAND.
Anna and I swam back and forth in the lagoon, waiting for the dolphins. “I’m bored,” I said.
“Me too,” she said, floating on her back. “Hey, let’s see if we can do that lift like Johnny and Baby.”
“I seriously have no clue what you’re talking about.”
“You’ve never seen Dirty Dancing?”
“No.” The title didn’t sound half-bad, though.
“It’s a great movie. I saw it in high school. 1987, I think.
“I was two years old.”
“Oh. Sometimes I forget how young you are.”
T.J. shook his head. “I’m not that young.”
“Well anyway, Patrick Swayze played this dance instructor named Johnny Castle at a resort in the Catskills. Jennifer Grey played Baby Houseman, and she was there with her family.” Anna paused for a second and then said, “Hey, I just thought of something. Baby and her family were spending their whole summer vacation away from home, just like you.”
“Was she pissed about it, too?” I asked.
Anna shook her head and laughed. “I don’t think so. She got together with Johnny and they spent a lot of time in bed.”
Why have I never seen this movie? It sounds awesome.
”But then Penny, Johnny’s dance partner got pregnant, and Baby had to fill in. There was this tricky lift, and Baby couldn’t do it at first, so they practiced in the water.”
“And that’s what you want to do?” If it meant touching her, I was all for it.
“I’ve always wanted to try it. It can’t be that hard.”
She stood in front of me and said, “Okay, I’m going to run toward you, and when I jump, put your hands here.” She took my hands and put them on her hips. “Then lift me straight up over your head. Do you think you can lift me?”
I rolled my eyes at her. “Of course I can lift you.”
“For some reason, Baby wore pants in the water when she did this, which I never understood. Okay, are you ready?”
I said yes, and Anna ran toward me and jumped. The minute my hands touched her hips, she collapsed on me because she said it tickled. My face ended up in her crotch.
We untangled ourselves and she said, “Don’t tickle me next time.”
I laughed. “I didn’t tickle you. I put my hands where you told me to.”
“Okay, let’s do it again.” She backed up to get a running start. “Here I come.”
(Reading this makes me want to reread ON THE ISLAND for a third time!)
Author Tracey Garvis-Graves is giving one lucky winner a signed copy of ON THE ISLAND.
- Entrants must be 18+ years of age.
- Must be a resident of US/Canada or have a US/Canada address that will accept on your behalf.
- You must fill out the Name and Email portion of the form. Everything else is extra.
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