Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Penguin (16 Aug 2012)
It would always be summer on the island…
When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a summer job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s holiday home in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation: a tropical island beats the library any day.
T.J. has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having had cancer wasn’t bad enough, he now has to spend his first summer in remission with his family 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. Marooned on an uninhabited island, Anna and T.J. work together to obtain water, food, fire and shelter but, as the days turn to weeks then months and finally years, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man…
I am going to be honest from the beginning … I’ve found this review so very hard to write as I absolutely loved On the Island. I was so caught up in the story that I read it in under 24 hours, pushing everything else aside so I could carry on reading.
We begin with Anna narrating in June 2001. She meets TJ at the airport. It’s a long and drawn out journey and at Malé International Airport, Maldives, they find out they haven’t been booked on to the seaplane that will take them to their final destination. However, there has been a cancellation and they find themselves the only passengers with pilot Mick. Mick very quickly becomes unwell and they find themselves crashing into the sea.
TJ takes over the narration (throughout the story, the narration alternates with Anna and TJ in the first person). Anna is unconscious and he slides his hand through her life jacket straps to keep her buoyant. Unable to do anything but let the current take them, they’re carried to a lagoon. He drags Anna along the sand before losing consciousness himself.
In the early days of their isolation on the uninhabited island, we read about how they survive each day. As the story progresses we move on much faster … the plot moves at a perfect pace (and builds in intensity). For quite a while all their energy is spent on just surviving but as it gets a little easier, Anna and TJ start getting to know each other. At one point TJ relates a poignant memory in relation to the time he was having chemotherapy and this pulled on my heart-strings.
The attraction between them builds and after TJ’s 18th birthday, this attraction opens up a moral dilemma for Anna. When the intimacy develops, the sexual scenes are beautifully portrayed.
There are plenty of crises on the island, which made me hold my breath. At times the tension is almost unbearable. Such a page turner! There were situations that brought tears but also times of laughter. The resolution of the scene with the shark had me cheering!
I identified with both lead characters, which I think shows how good the writing is. There are no flowery descriptions, the chapters are short as are some of the sentences (great for building tension).
There is much more to the plot after the three years spent on the island. I won’t spoil it by telling you how, where or why or even what comes afterwards. I will say that this part of the story had me just as hooked, engaging all my emotions. The epilogue is exactly what I needed for a satisfactory conclusion.
On the Island is a story that I will be thinking about for quite some time and I have no hesitation in recommending it.
On the Island is a debut novel and was self published in the US. It spent 5 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, top ten in the Wall Street Journal and top fifteen in USA Today. Film rights sold to MGM, with Temple Hill Productions (Twilight) scheduled to produce.
I am fortunate enough to have two copies of On the Island. I was sent a copy from the Real Readers programme (link on my sidebar) and a copy from the publisher. The giveaway is for the finished paperback copy. If you would like to enter, just leave a pick me comment. The giveaway is open to UK/IE only and closes 24th August 2012 at midnight (BST).
On the Island is available to purchase (at the time of my review):
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