On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

On the Island - Tracey Garvis-Graves

Welcome people. Let's take a trip shall we? We'll be crashing into the ocean on our way to the Maldives. From here on we'll spend time with Anna and T.J., two of the stupidets people you'll ever meet. She's more than ten years older than him, meant to be his teacher over the summer. Unfortunately, they, and we, will be stuck on an island for a long period of time. While we're here there will be a lack of drinking water, rabid dolphins attacking sharks, an obsession with physical appearance, and eventually some 'forbidden' romance between teacher and student except there is never any teaching happening. But we'll se how we survive on this island, so come along for the trip!

You know what, I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm not. Here's the thing:On the Island has an interesting premise, but lacks execution. The main problem, I believe, is that the book never decides on what genre it wants to be. Instead it ends up like some chick-lit/survival/taboo/young adult/new adult or something. I don't even know. I would've preferred that the author took it a more distinct line, either be chick-lit or be a survival story. But that's not the problematic, not really. There are three factors that makes this fail to either be one of the genres or fails to combine them.

The writing
This is told from alternating point of views, one being Anna's and the other T.J.'s. First of all, she's thirty, he's sixteen (or something like it), but they sound exactly the same. I'm not kidding. At times I forgot from who's point I was reading. There is a big age-gap here, it should be easy to know who's who, but it's nearly impossible. Anna's voice is too immature, T.J.'s too bland. Which leads to the second issue with the writing. Which is the lack of intimacy. There's not a single moment where I felt connected to these characters. No moment of suddenly being touched by their perspective. Not a single time. Look, being stuck on an deserted island in the middle of nowhere is going to be hard. Hard is putting it lightly. Come on, who doesn't freak out at the thought of being stuck on an island, not knowing if anyone's ever going to find you? Yeah, that's right. More or less everyone. Yet, neither T.J. or Anna ever has periods of absolute anguish. And that's what I mean. There are no strong emotions behind these characters or their actions.

The dialoge
Maybe I'm picky, but the dialogues in this is an example of how to not write dialogue. They switch topic every other sentence. Example, you ask? Here you go:

“I know I’m not wearing pants,” I explained when I returned to the lean-to. “But I’m hot, and I want to let them dry.”
“No big deal, Anna.”
“I wish we had something to catch fish with. There are tons of them in the lagoon.”


Someone please explain to me how you go from "I'm not wearing pants" to "I wish we had something to catch fish with". Seriously, someone tell me.

And this is just one example. There are more, but the overall problem is the stiffness to it. What it does is making all characters emotionless, and impersonal. It never gives a good insight on whothey are.

The unrealism 
My main problem is that we're never shown how Anna and T.J. survies for so long. And I have troubles believing they survive as long as they do, because this is what T.J. asks when the pilot flying their plane has a heart-attack:

“What about us? Can he still fly the plane?”


Yes, T.J., I'm sure the pilot can fly the fucking plane when having a fucking heart-attack. You're sixteen, but you sure are dumb.

And secondly: They have close to no water they can drink. They bottle it up from rain water. Okay, given that, who washes off her fish-guts covered hand in the only water they can drink when there is an entire ocean just a couple of feet away? Yeah, Anna, our supposedly smart teacher wastes water on washing her hands. (Although it's never mentioned if her wasteful ways affects them, which it should. So I guess that's added to this pile of unrealistic events.)

So it's not really that the story is bad, but the execution makes it. Overall, it's actually a decent story, but just that. Decent, with many errors. It would've been better had it focused on some aspect. But, you know, I see why people enjoy it. People should, it's an okay story. It just didn't work for me. Sorry, not really sorry.