Technically two stories in one, Pivot Point is a gripping blend of fantasy, romance, drama and action.
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, / and sorry I could not travel both.”
Imagine if Robert Frost’s illustrious poem, The Road Not Taken, were adapted into a young adult fantasy thriller, and you’d get Kasie West’s debut novel Pivot Point. A gripping read, West’s novel feels like Sliding Doors crossed with X-Men crossed with Twilight: a bizarre mix, but one that works surprisingly well.
Pivot Point tells the story of teenager Addie Cole, who is a “Paranormal”: a member of a group of people with psychic powers. She has the ability to “Search” – whenever she is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes.
For all her life, Addie has lived a peaceful life in the Compound, a secret facility where Paranormals hide themselves from “Normals”, or the rest of the world.
But when her parents announce they are getting divorced, Addie is faced with a difficult dilemma. Does she stay with stay her mother in the Compound? Or go with her father, who plans to live with the Normals?
Addie’s ability to Search both options, however, only complicates matters.
She discovers that if she stays with her mother, she will encounter Duke, a charming star quarterback.
If she goes with her father, she will meet Trevor, a sensitive former athlete with a heart of gold.
Which outcome – and which guy – will she choose?
Making matters worse is the involvement of a sinister killer, who features in both options. With her knowledge of facts from two separate timestreams, Addie is the only person who can stop him. But will she make the right choices to do so?
Yes, I know this sounds like your average Twilight-style romance. Rest assured, however, while romance is an important part of Pivot Point, West balances it with just enough suspense and action to delight everyone.
That said, however, I foresee a lot of Team Duke and Team Trevor T-shirts in future....
Pivot Point’s greatest strength is its excellent plotting. West frames her story as alternating chapters, creatively prefacing each chapter with a word containing either “PARA” or “NORM” to remind readers which timestream we are seeing. This style sounds like it could be confusing, but remarkably, it is very easy to follow.
Indeed, each timestream is very well fleshed out, completely distinct yet featuring enough similarities with the other to keep it interesting. Ghostbusters may have taught us never to cross the streams, but West shows us that it can be done, and excellently to boot.
And while they were both well done, I have to say Addie’s adventures in the Normal World were slightly more interesting, due to the inherent suspense of her constantly having to hide her abilities from her Normal friends.
West does a good job with world-building: Addie’s Paranormal world is an engaging one, where perceptives and mood controllers and manipulators and erasers all run around. Certain famous figures in history are revealed to secretly have psychic powers.
Unscrupulous psychics use their powers to gain advantages in the normal world. And Addie, already struggling with the normal teenage problems, must cope with her father being able to detect lies and her mother’s psychic persuasion powers. It’s all very fascinating.
The novel’s characters are also well drawn. Addie is a good protagonist: a selfless and loyal friend, who despite being quite intelligent, can be extremely socially oblivious. Her best friend, the flighty Laila, is fun to read about, and both love interests are drawn out realistically and charmingly.
The story does slow down in the middle, as Addie goes on dates and gets to know both her love interests better.
While some of the romance scenes seem a bit like filler, there are some genuinely sweet moments in Addie’s interactions with both Duke and Trevor.
Pivot Point also suffers a few minor story holes: for one thing, I am still unclear about the mysterious killer’s motivations. Why was he only attacking girls? Was it a personal quirk, or was there something intrinsic to their nature?
Also slightly hard to swallow was a subplot involving one character hiding their true powers from everyone else, including a school board, who would have their personal records! You’d think in a world populated by clairvoyants, lie detectors and mind readers, someone would have discovered the truth sooner.
A sequel to the book, Split Second, was published earlier this year. While I personally feel it’s unnecessary (I thought Pivot Point ended in a fantastic place), I would most definitely check it out, if only just to return to West’s interesting world of Normals and Paranormals.
This is a solid, well-crafted read that will satisfy both romance and fantasy fans.