I still don’t know how I’ve been enlisted in this unofficial book club, but my friend Erin Summerill has been giving me romance novels to read and then grilling me on my reactions. I’m actually not unhappy with this. I’ve always wanted to get into reading romance, because it feels a bit silly to have no familiarity with the genre that accounts for roughly half of all novel sales in the US. But because it’s such a big genre, it can be hard to find the good stuff. With Erin’s help I’ve been moving through, and I haven’t encountered a bad one yet.
However, of all the novels she’s made me read, the best was the most recent: Tracy Garvis-Graves’s On The Island.
This is a book that I guarantee will produce a wince from everybody who reads the synopsis. It’s about a thirty year old woman, a high school teacher, who gets stranded on a deserted tropical island, after a plane crash. Her only companion? The 16 year old boy she was supposed to tutor that summer.
So yes, the book does have a taboo element. They don’t get together until the kid is 18, but still, you’re like, hmmm there is something off about this. However, it’s also really compelling and really hot. Here you have two people who’re fighting for their lives. They’re threatened by sharks, by hunger, by disease, and by thirst. Everything is a struggle. They’re never safe. They never reach a comfortable Robinson Crusoe style equilibrium. They’re always in danger of dying.
And, throughout, it becomes so clear that if it wasn’t for the other person, they’d already have died long ago. Before you’ve gone too far in the book, they’re already relying on each other emotionally.
But you’re still left wondering: when are they gonna get together? How’s it gonna happen?
It’s a simple premise, but because the stakes feel so sky-high (I mean what happens if things don’t work out between two people trapped together on an island), I was just so on board for the ride.
The book is also astonishingly well written. It’s a straight-up good book. One of the best I’ve read this year. I mean I certainly don’t think I’ve read another book this year that’s pulled me through with such raw force.