Pivot Point is a YA novel from author Kasie West that falls into many of the trappings of regular Young Adult fare, but manages to break free of them and emerge successful on the other side.
The novel is something that initially may seem familiar to fans of the Gwyneth Paltrow film, Sliding Doors, in which someone is able to see two distinctive futures based on one choice, and then have the ability to choose between the two.
Addie is a teenage girl who lives in a special Compound, where all the people possess mental powers and capabilities that keep them separate from the Norm(al) world. The Compound is a secret, but the people there live relatively normal lives, aside from the fact that they are trained in their mental capabilities. Initially, the novel starts off pretty cheesily, and some of the discourse and establishment of context comes across as chunky and unnatural. But it gets better.
The mental power that Addie has is to be able to “Search” her future. She can go from one incident, and look at the possible outcomes, to see which one is more desirable. This can provide her with basic skills, like deciding if she should go out with a specific boy. When Addie’s parents decide to get divorced, she must choose between living with her father in the Norm world, or staying in the Compound with her mother, and her best friend, Laila (who conveniently erase memories, which will help Addie when she finds a choice she doesn’t want to make).
Not sure what to choose, Addie performs a Search, to see which outcome will become the more desirable. This creates the split narrative in the story, with alternating chapters between the Search on Addie’s life in the Compound versus her life in the Norm world with her father.
In the Compound, Addie becomes charmed by Duke, the popular and athletic starting quarterback of the high school football team, which does quite well, considering their special “gifts” they are able to use on the other teams. In this world, she is haunted by a Searched incident with another boy, and a case of missing girls in the area that her father is working on (he is a lie detector, able to tell when anybody is lying to him). Despite her initial poor reactions to Duke, she finds herself taken in by his charms.
In the real world, Addie is forced to go and learn to live a normal life. She has to become accustomed to new things, and the old technologies that they use in Dallas, where her new life starts. In this world, she meets Trevor, the former star quarterback at his school, who hasn’t played since getting injured a year prior while playing Addie’s old school. They become friends, and she tries to immerse herself in this new life, and with this new group of friends. Even though she is in a new town, she still keeps in touch with Laila, who continues to live her life in the secret Compound. Sparks fly with Trevor, and we are provided with the stronger of the two romantic options, at least in my opinion, for Addie.
The story comes to a head when the subplot of the missing girls becomes more and more real for Addie, and then she is forced to make her choice, on which Search is the better one, and where she needs to go from there, and what to do after.
Once the clunky beginning to the novel is over with, Pivot Point starts to hit its stride. While the dialogue and descriptions were quite weak and simple at the beginning of the novel, it begins to take shape once the split narratives begin and get rolling. After that point, the novel is paced pretty well, and Addie’s voice becomes more clear and defined in the narrative.
The novel gets more interesting as it goes along, once we begin to see incidents that overlap in both of the possible outcomes that the protagonist is faced with. Everything picks up steam once we realize that she is closer to making a decision, and that choices aren’t always a case of picking the best option, but perhaps picking the better of two poor options. It provides plenty of interest as the story moves forward towards its conclusion.
Once the choice is made, there is still some intrigue, because Addie needs to deal with the consequences of her choice, and needs to decide which memories she would like to have erased. It provides for some interesting fiction.
Pivot Point works as a stand-alone novel, but as with so many (too many) YA novels, there is a sequel available, entitled Split Second, which seems to take place immediately following the events of the first book. Typically, I am against reading any sequels in the YA genre, because I find them to be irritating and often recycled, but I have to admit that I am curious to see where this one goes.
For a novel that I initially disliked, I really got into Pivot Point, and ended up quite enjoying it. I may just have to read the second.
Young, female readers should enjoy this book, as it gets the chance to double up on romantic stories, and the questions of the kids with superpowers is always present, but not always bashing you in the face with the science fiction aspect of the whole premise. A steady read.