My rating: ★★★☆☆
A copy of this book was provided via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
On the surface, the premise of Pivot Point sounds exceptionally intriguing. What would life be like for a girl who could peek into the future to explore the possible consequences of her actions… before she even decides to act?
Of course, when you take a moment to think about that, it kind of falls apart. There’s a huge hole in logic there, and I spent the entire book wondering if the author was going to bother to fill it.
What plot hole? Well, it’s easy. Say you have Addie’s abilities, and you have an extremely important life decision coming up (like Addie). Maybe you want to know whether it’s a good idea to get married in, say, your hometown, or if it’s worth it to splurge on a super fancy Hawaii wedding-vacation.
So you take a peek into each possible future. While you’re Searching, you won’t know it, so you’ll probably spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not you’ve made the right decision–never once realizing that you’re actually in the middle of pinpointing the right decision. (Why exactly, I don’t know… but it’s part of the premise of the Search.)
As it turns out, the Hawaii trip is great. Your worries vanish when you’re in that wonderful Pacific sun, and you have a great wedding. You, your spouse, and your guests are happy.
But in the hometown future? Your extended family has to squeeze into your childhood home, or they’ll have to spring for a rather crappy motel room in a town where there isn’t much to do. You hear them squabbling with each other, which stresses you out… which makes you worry. You can’t get your mind off your troubles. When the wedding is finally over, your relief that you’ve gotten through the ordeal is greater than your joy about the occasion itself.
So the obvious choice is the Hawaii trip, right? Well… no, not really. See, knowing–or thinking you know–what’s going to happen changes this irrevocably. You don’t react–can’t react–the way you did during the Search, because now you know what to expect. People react to things differently when they know the outcome (or think they know the outcome) versus when they don’t.
Imagine that you chose that Hawaii trip. It sounds like the right choice, easily. The other was stressful and dissatisfying, and the Hawaii trip was sunny, joyous, and worry-free. But not all of it.
See, before you got to your island paradise vacation, you had to deal with the hassle of an airport. It’s a stressful experience, and you were as vigilante as a hawk during your Search. But because you know what’s going to happen, you know you can relax. Except it’s that relaxation that could change everything.
Being confident that everything is going to go well, you’re not obsessively double-checking yourself like you were during your search. You fail to notice that you’ve left one of your suitcases behind. The suitcase that happened to have your wedding dress in it, for example.
And suddenly your stress-free Hawaii vacation is occupied with the panic of realizing your dress is gone. The hassle of shopping for an expensive wedding dress all over again. The additional decision over whether to buy a traditional dress or turn into an unabashed tourist by throwing on a grass skirt and lei.
That’s just an example–and a rather silly one at that–but it gets my point across: “knowing” what will happen changes what will happen. You’ll always gain some knowledge that will change how you react, either consciously or subconsciously.
To stress my point in the clearest way I possibly can, imagine today has been part of a Search. The alternate path was terrible, so you choose this path (the actual events of today). Do you think you can relive today perfectly, without the luxury of a memory-wipe? Do you think you can replicate every word you spoke today, done to tone and inflection? Do you think you can replicate every gesture that might have affected someone’s impression of your attitude?
These might seem like completely inconsequential details, but all it takes to disprove that is to think back on a conversation in which someone got angry at you because they misread your signals (or vice versa). Your tone of voice, your vocal inflection, your completely absent-minded gestures and body language have affects on those around you that you will never know. Change your tone, inflection, or body language without realizing it, and you’ve ever-so-slightly changed the path. You may never see the consequences of this difference–they may never be substantial enough to be seen, even–but they’re there.
Which brings me to the question: Do you think it’s possible to live the same day twice, with full memory of the original time, and not make even the most subtle, unaware, seemingly innocuous change?
I really doubt it.
And so I spent most of Pivot Point wondering what exactly Addie’s plan was. If she finds out something terrible happens during one or both of the Searches (and–no spoiler tag because I think this should be pretty obvious to everyone–she does, though I won’t say what), she’s going to have that on her mind for the rest of… well, ever. She’s going to try to walk the opposite path of the terrible thing, but she’s going to remember it. She’s going to constantly worry about the person or people to whom the terrible thing happened. She won’t be able to treat them the way she did in the Search, because she can’t banish The Thing from her mind just because it would be convenient. And having The Thing on her mind will change her path even if she doesn’t intend it to. She’ll likely say something vague to the victim of The Thing that will change that person’s psyche from its incarnation in the Search. Suddenly that person–and every person whom they affect–is a wild card; they won’t react the same was as in the Search because some tiny little detail has changed their psyche in a tiny little way.
Whether or not these alternate details lead to a negative outcome doesn’t matter. What matters is that at the end of the day, Searching isn’t really very useful. Sure, Addie might manage to prevent The Thing… but she’ll never be able to walk the path she chooses, because the Addie who chooses won’t be the same person as the Addie from the Search. Experiencing the Search gives her knowledge that changes her the same way that experiencing time normally changes all of us. She’s going to have knowledge and experience she didn’t have during the Search, and it’ll affect her whether she realizes it or not.
That said, Kasie West did attempt to fill this gap. There was something that slipped my mind while reading Pivot Point, something that would have at least partially assuaged my fears that the plot hole would go unfilled; Addie’s best friend, Laila, can erase her memories. And Laila does change things… but not as completely as you might think.
When The Thing happens, West attempts to fill the gap in the premise with Laila’s exceptionally convenient ability, but ultimately we’re right back where we started. While Laila won’t know what The Thing is, she’ll know that there was a Thing. And she’ll worry.
In the original Search futures–fear not, I won’t spoil which Addie chooses–Laila wasn’t worried. Now she is, and she doesn’t know exactly what she should be worrying about. She’ll have theories, probably a lot of theories. And if she changes even one single thing, one single word in a conversation that she thought was inconsequential, one failure to smile as she walks past a person she doesn’t realize was dangerous, one single gesture in the hall… she will change the path. She might change it a terrible way.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to say that Pivot Point isn’t a good book. Ultimately, I did enjoy the story. The premise is fascinating, even if it does fall apart upon close inspection. If you can look past the gaps in the logic, Pivot Point is still an interesting, intriguing story. In any case, most of the story is spent exploring the two alternate paths anyway, and each was enjoyable in its own right (though the alternating chapters took some getting used to, I must admit).
I’d definitely recommend Pivot Point to fans of YA fantasy who don’t think they’ll mind (or notice!) the flaw in the premise. As for me, the sequel has a definite place on my “eventually” shelf.