Let’s talk about chick lit. It has a very specific appeal – readers can insert themselves into the story and live vicariously through the adventures of the main character. It specifically targets women by providing an idealized account of an unusual situation or relationship. I totally understand why these types of books exist. But personally, I don’t have much experience with reading them – I tend to read more Young Adult, which has a very different vibe most of the time. I think it’s important to let you know that since my take on this book might be vastly different from someone who regularly reads and enjoys so-called chick lit.
Not that The Island is pure chick lit, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s not exactly light-hearted or humorous. There’s no plucky heroine solving mysteries or screwing up relationships. But to me, despite the drama and hardship, The Island still felt like the extended fantasy of a woman looking for adventure and romance… just with a side of dehydration and severe sunburn.
The Island is told from the alternating perspectives of Anna, a 30-year-old teacher, and T.J., a 17-year-old boy who missed a year of high school while he was being treated for cancer. Anna is hired to accompany T.J. and his family on a vacation to the Maldives so that she can help him catch up with his school work before he starts his senior year. The Maldives, for those of you who have not watched the requisite amount of Travel Channel, are a cluster of hundreds of tiny islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. To get there, Anna and T.J. take a small seaplane piloted by a cholesterol fiend named Mick. Things don’t go so well for ol’ Mick during the flight, and soon Anna and T.J. find themselves stranded on a deserted island with no idea where they are and limited supplies.
And so begins the survival portion of the story, which I found to be quite interesting. Being stranded on an island is by no means a new concept, but I think it’s a difficult one. I felt like it was handled pretty well, considering – T.J. and Anna had their fair share of difficulties, ranging from dehydration to disease, but the author avoided letting the tone slip into extremely depressing territory. Being on the island together, T.J. and Anna became each others’ reasons to keep surviving. They continued to have hope that they would be rescued because they knew the other needed to see that hope. That theme really translated into the overall tone of the book, leaving me feeling anxious but not amazingly discouraged when things weren’t going Anna & T.J.’s way.
Anna and T.J.’s relationship evolves quickly, which I suppose tends to happen when you are with the same person constantly. And yet, I didn’t feel like theirs was merely a relationship of convenience. Think about it: You get stranded on an island with another person you barely know. There’s probably a 50/50 chance at best that the person isn’t going to drive you crazy after a few straight days with them. But Anna and T.J. spend much longer than that together, and are lucky enough to understand each other and form a unique bond. The author writes T.J. with quite a bit of maturity – he rarely thinks or behaves in quite the way you would expect from a teenager, which is attributed to his battle with cancer. This really helps take away some of the potential ick factor from his and Anna’s relationship.
The biggest issue I had with this book was the depth the characters – I didn’t feel a strong connection to either Anna or T.J. despite getting first person narration from both of them. I didn’t dislike either character, but I felt like I only really got a superficial view of them. It was like they were a couple of people I know from passing them in the halls at work – I knew them, but I didn’t REALLY know them, despite technically being inside their heads. It was a very strange feeling. While this issue was just a minor inconvenience during the first two thirds of the book, by the end it became a major bummer. I had trouble staying motivated to keep reading about these characters that I didn’t feel truly invested in.
For me, the majority of this book was a pretty good read. The subject matter was certainly unique, and I wanted to keep reading and see what happened. For the sake of avoiding spoiling anything, I don’t want to go into too much detail on what exactly caused this feeling to go away toward the end. Mainly, though, it came down to new subject matter that just didn’t interest me, combined with no longer having a reason to have much stake in these characters. It comes back to what I said at the beginning regarding chick lit. The book wanders into a gray area that many readers might still appreciate; it’s just not my personal preference. That said, I still enjoyed a good portion of the book and I think it will appeal to many women looking for some extra adventure and romance with their fiction.
- Interview with On The Island Author Tracey Garvis Graves
- Book Review: A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
- Book Reviews on The Daily Quirk