Readable enough but completely contrived- 3 stars
Source- Bought copy
Kindle edition- 334 pages
When I chose this novel for my Kindle I wasn’t exactly expecting a Lord of the Flies or Robinson Crusoe type scenario, but I was looking forward to a story of human survival against all the odds- two people marooned on a dessert island following a plane crash; how would they cope? One of the survivors, fifteen-year-old TJ is recently in remission from cancer- what happens if it comes back? I was curious to see how the author would tackle that. The romance aspect intrigued me as well- I was really looking forward to reading this book, particularly as there has recently been a lot of hype about it in the UK.
So is it any good? Well, it’s readable enough, especially at the start. The writing flows well and you are pulled straight into the action, so I enjoyed this book in that respect. The characters of Anna and TJ are well depicted and you instantly get a feel for them as people. Given what happens later in the book, TJ is characterised as quite mature for his age, presumably given his earlier health problems, so what happens later on (quite a lot later on) isn’t tacky or that much of a surprise. I liked the ever-growing closeness between them and the strong sense of mutual dependency that evolved over time. As a reader you do find yourself wondering how you would cope in a similar situation and can sense some of the panic and desperation that is conveyed.
I have given this book three stars purely because there were some really contrived aspects dotted throughout the story that I had to work so hard to ignore. I won’t go into them because if you read this novel you will understand immediately what I am referring to. I also felt that parts of this book felt very ‘glossed over.’ Though I know there’s only so much one can write about being stranded on a desert island and I can appreciate Anna and TJ’s need for structured routines to stop themselves going crazy in their situation, a lot of this book grew quite repetitive with their constant swimming in the lagoon and eating breadfruit and trying to crack open coconuts and there were some frequent jumps in time that felt like the story had been a bit ‘glossed over.’ In all honesty, by the time Anna and TJ started cavorting with some uber-friendly dolphins I think I’d had enough of this book- it didn’t seem to be going anywhere and I found myself frustrated with it. From that point on, the aspects of the narrative set on the island just went steadily downhill and I found myself repeatedly rolling my eyes- everything seemed so staged and the novel began reading more like a soap opera than what I had anticipated, particularly given the great beginning.
I won’t go into details about the way this book ends, or spoil the novel for anyone who wishes to read it, but needless to say that this wasn’t exactly a story of great depth, struggle or endurance, though I did find the ending admittedly left me feeling a bit warm and fuzzy, despite its predictability. I suppose the pretty, tranquil looking front cover says it all: if you are looking for an escapist beach read or a book to while away an hour or so in the bath then you will find this a passable enough story- but please don’t expect anything of any great substance because you certainly won’t find it here.