When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – 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. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter.

Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

This is my second time reading it and loved it even more than the first time around! Wow, just simply amazeballs!
This is a book where the blurb jumped out to me. A much older female tutor and an in-remission teenager crash in the ocean and end up on a deserted island? Well sign me up! A very realistic, heartwarming, and thought-provoking read, On the Island will always remain a top favorite on my shelf!

The story is told from dual POVs. Enter Anna, a 30 year old English teacher who is hired to tutor T.J. all summer in the Maldives. Anna is such a well-rounded character: she’s gorgeous, sophisticated, and knows what she wants in life. However, she isn’t too satisfied in her current relationship with her longtime boyfriend John, another minor reason to accept the summer tutoring job to get away, relax, and process. As level-headed and calm as she is, Anna couldn’t have known that in just hours, she and T.J. would land head-first in the Indian Ocean after their charter plan crashes.

Simply put, T.J. is an amazing character! At the beginning of the story, he’s an almost seventeen year old dreading the idea of spending the summer with his family and studying when all he wants to do is hang out with friends. What really made him stand out is that despite his young age, he’s such a mature guy. His battle with cancer really put his life into perspective: while others his age are out partying and getting laid, he goes through treatments, banks his sperm, and goes through a significant amount of chemo. Usually I shy away from books that bring in the cancer aspect since I think it’s an overused trope in stories, but this author realistically and expertly weaves this element into the book.

The part that really spoke out to me, however, was the nature of T.J. and Anna’s relationship and how it smoothly progressed from acquaintances to lovers. I totally dig anything taboo and forbidden and at first glance, that’s exactly what T.J. and Anna’s relationship is viewed as – she’s 30 and he’s 16. However, when they finally are together as a couple, everything is very much legal and with the amount of time that passes while they’re on the island, both characters mature in age and mind so their encounters were very believable and expected. I have no doubt in my mind that if T.J. and Anna didn’t land up on their island, they probably wouldn’t have ended up pursing a relationship together; however, some things in life happen unexpectedly and it’s unfortunate they got dished this plate. It’s amazing that when survival is at the forefront of your mind, meaningless worries are stripped away and what’s left behind is what and whoreally matters. Age ceases to be an issue.

Overall, a beautifully-written, inspirational, and unconventional tale of love, life, and survival that I’d recommend everyone to read! Don’t let the taboo and subject matter deter you from picking up this unique story; it’s definitely worth the read (and re-read).