Monday, July 2, 2012

On the Island by Tracy Garvis-Graves

I can't remember the last time that I read a 300+ page book in 3 days. That is what happened with On the Island. I am not sure if it is because I was reading it on my iPad (at the time it's only available in ebook format), or because I just got new glasses or if it was because it was such a simplistic novel and required no intellectual commitment on the part of the reader. There has been a lot of buzz about this book and it has shot to the top of ebook best seller lists. readers have lavished praise and so I was excited to read it when our book club chose it for our July selection.

Anna Emerson, a high school English teacher, and J.T. Callahan, a student who needs to spend the summer catching up on his studies because he lost classroom time due to chemotherapy for leukemia, are off to the Maldives where his parents intend to spend summer vacation. After a series of delays and airline complications, they finally board a private charter flight. Mid-flight the pilot suffers a heart attack and the plane ditches into the ocean.  Both J.T. and Anna survive and find themselves in survival mode on a deserted island. By chance they are helped when their shoes, a life raft, and her suitcase wash up on the shore. For the next two hundred or so pages the reader follows their ups and downs as they count the years and holidays during the three years they live there. They are careful to maintain the teacher/student relationship until J.T. turns 18 and they succumb to the tensions that have been building between them. They live through shark attacks, jellyfish stings, bat attacks, and dengue hemorrhagic fever.

The conclusion of the book takes place following the 2004 tsunami and to relate it would be a definite spoiler.  I honestly do not know what the hype is about with this novel. I imagine it meets the need for a fluff beach book for some. For me, I was very uncomfortable reading about a student-teacher relationship that was about more than studying. I cannot fathom how a teacher falls for a much younger student, no matter what the circumstances might be. The novel is told in alternate chapters by J.T. and Anna. If I had not paid attention to the chapter, I would not have been able to discern who was actually relating the events. There really wasn't much difference in the voice or POV. The writing is a bit sophomoric, but the book fills the bill if you are looking for a nice, summer, light read.

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