Blog Tour and Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

This week I’m excited to be taking part in the On the Island Blog Tour. For the full schedule of tour events, click here.

I read Hatchet ten times in the fifth grade. That might be an exaggeration, but the sentiment remains; I couldn’t get enough of Gary Paulsen’s tale of a young boy fighting the odds against survival.

I’m not ashamed to say that, when I saw the description of On the Island on NetGalley, I was hoping for an adult version of one of my favorite childhood novels. On the Islandfeatures one of the lesser-utilized romance tropes, that of a (considerably) younger man and an older woman. T.J. is only sixteen when he and Anna first arrive on the island, while Anna is thirty. Compound that with the fact that T.J. is in remission for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Anna has been hired as his tutor to help him catch up with school, and On the Island could easily have succumbed to a coercive ickiness that would have cast a pall over their relationship, no matter how sweet that relationship wound up being. For this

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

reason, I applaud Garvis Graves for her portrayal of the progression of Anna’s and T.J.’s feelings. Though the book is quite short, Garvis Graves successfully conveyed the gradual evolution of the couple’s notions regarding themselves and the possibilities for a more intimate relationship to grow. Though Anna counsels herself repeatedly against acknowledging any desire on her part early on in the novel, her eventual decision to embrace their relationship did not feel like a renunciation of her better judgment. To be more blunt, she never gave off cougar vibes, which I sorely feared going into this story. T.J. was a perfect foil for Anna, displaying a mature temperament even before he and Anna were stranded. I particularly loved how Garvis Graves slowly shifted the power dynamics between T.J. and Anna to reflect their respective maturities. Anna might have experienced more years than T.J., but in the context of their new environment, a surfeit of years means very little compared to the common sense, ingenuity, and fortitude necessary to survive.

With that being said, On the Island displays numerous weaknesses that betray its inital publication as an independent release. The novel is quite short, and though Anna and T.J. are the sole characters for over half the novel, I nonetheless would have appreciated a little more depth of analysis regarding their respective emotions. I felt that T.J., in particular, should have devoted much more of his narration to reflection on the health battles he had faced, yet we are given only short glimpses into his life prior to the story’s beginning. In contrast, Anna spends countless pages lamenting the state of her relationship with her quasi-ex-boyfriend and the issues they faced. While those issues and their role in ending her previous relationship are integral to cementing her relationship with T.J., there’s no reason why Garvis Graves couldn’t have expanded the story to allow for that same level of reflection between the two main characters.

I am no survival expert, yet I can’t help but feel that Garvis Graves made things a little too easy on her two protagonists. I appreciate that this is a romance novel and, as such, readers probably don’t want to read about characters’ intimate encounters despite years without hygiene products. In this regard, I commend Garvis Graves for at least recognizing the issue and giving an explanation, even if that explanation seemed a tad too expedient. Likewise, her recognition and explanation of issues surrounding birth control was a welcome addition to the narrative, as too many authors conveniently tend to forget that these problems exist. However, I would have liked more attention to detail regarding the day-to-day factors that allowed Anna and T.J. to exist in relative comfort (or at least, without the extreme discomfort that would be expected in these circumstances).

Going into the novel, I fully expected Garvis Graves to present a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, see our characters rescued anyway, and leave any practical consequences of their relationship for resolution in the reader’s mind only. So when Anna and T.J. leave the island with nearly a third of the story to go, I was excited to see how and to what extent Garvis Graves actually explored the implications of two people in their circumstances having formed a relationship. I’d love to say that, given their extraordinary odds against survival, Anna and T.J.’s relationship would have been spared too much scrutiny after the initial journalistic intrigue died down, but unfortunately I believe that Garvis Graves’s portrayal of the fallout was fairly realistic. Still, I am a romantic purist at heart (translate to “I abhor adultery sublines”) and so one particular development, while perhaps realistic, nevertheless dampened my love for the story somewhat. Still, overall, I enjoyed On the Island for offering an interesting perspective on an atypical romance.

Thank you for participating in the ON THE ISLAND Event! This week in addition to reviews and posts, select blogs are hosting a word from the author’s favorite quotes in the book as a Scavenger Hunt! There is one quote from Anna and one from T.J. Visit each stop this week to find the hidden words (they will be numbered for order) and after July 22nd, submit your answer to the quotes here! Random winners for books and swag will be chosen and notified by July 29th.

Also, next week July 23-27, there will be even more events and chances to win the book and swag!

  • Monday, July 23 at 8:00 pm CST – Chat with the author Tracey Garvis Graves! We will be chatting with the author on Savor Chat: Come join us! (You can sign in with twitter or facebook)
  • Each day look at #ontheisland on twitter for random shout outs to win books and swag! @Tale_of_Reviews
  • ON THE ISLAND released in bookstores Tuesday, July 10th! If you see the book in stores or ‘in the wild’ take a picture. Please tweet it and use hashtag #ontheisland. Or you can post it to facebook! Please submit twitter and facebook links of your post/tweet here!  All entries need to be submitted by July 29th.

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