Title: Ultimatum by K.M. Walton
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the author of Cracked and Empty comes a gripping, emotional story of two brothers who must make the ultimate decision about what’s more important: family or their differences.
It’s not Oscar’s fault he’s misunderstood. Ever since his mother died, he’s been disrespected by his father and bullied by his self-absorbed older brother, so he withdraws from his fractured family, seeking refuge in his art.
Vance wishes his younger brother would just loosen up and be cool. It was hard enough to deal with their mother’s death without Oscar getting all emotional. At least when Vance pushes himself in lacrosse and parties, he feels alive.
But when their father’s alcoholism sends him into liver failure, the two brothers must come face-to-face with their demons–and each other–if they are going to survive a very uncertain future.
Ultimatum by K.M. Walton is a poignant young adult novel about two very different brothers who are undergoing a life-altering event. Will this tragedy help them bridge the gap between them? Or will it pull them even farther apart?
Ten months apart in age, Vance and Oscar Irving are not at all close and in fact, they are complete opposites. Older brother Vance may look like the boys’ now deceased mom, but he has much more in common with his hard partying, boisterous father. Vance is the gregarious, life of the party and he is a hotshot lacrosse who is quite popular. Oscar, on the hand, is the spitting image of his dad but he is much more introverted and retreats both psychically and emotionally when things turn adversarial. Now facing the death of their father who is in the final stages of liver failure, Vance and Oscar are independently realizing they will only have one another to rely on after he passes away. Will his death be the end of the brothers’ strained relationship? Or can they find a way to overcome their differences and strengthen their fragile bond?
Ultimatum alternates back and forth between the brothers’ perspectives and weaves back and forth in time. The present is written from Oscar’s point of view and through his eyes, readers witness his uncertainty about his relationship with Vance. As he reflects on certain events from the past, it is very easy to feel the pain he has experienced at his brother’s and father’s indifference and their lack of understanding for the things that are important to him. He is much more introspective than Vance and Oscar is quite reflective as he faces his father’s impending death.
Vance’s chapters go back in time and focus on the events that have gone wrong in both his and his family’s life. He is quite dismissive of Vance and his interests and he makes absolutely no effort to include his brother in his life. Instead, he numbs his emotions with drugs and alcohol and concentrates on making his dad proud of him. Vance is devoted to playing lacrosse and in fact, he is relying on the sport to pave his way to a college scholarship. He is well on his way to success when he makes a decision that has a detrimental impact on his future and in the aftermath, his relationship with his father is extremely tense. And just like Oscar, Vance is filled with regrets as he watches over his father’s final days.
Ultimatum by K.M. Walton is a deeply affecting and emotional young adult novel that is ultimately uplifting as Vance and Oscar come to terms with the past and make plans for the future. The characters are richly drawn and imbued with strengths and weaknesses that are easy to relate to. Oscar is the more sympathetic of the brothers, but Vance undergoes the most growth by novel’s end. A bittersweet yet hopeful young adult novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of all ages.