Ultimatum – K M Walton
This is the first of K M Walton’s books that I’ve read, but I am sure as heck going to find me some more to work through because my God, this is someone that can write teenagers and grief and the different ways to deal with grief and this book was just so harrowing yet addictive!
Oscar is misunderstood. Ever since his mother died, he’s been disrespected and bullied by his family, and he seeks refuge in his art. Vance is a popular athlete and wishes his brother would just loosen up and be cool. It was hard enough to deal with their mother’s death without Oscar getting all emotional. Vance just wants to throw himself into partying, to live.
But when their father’s alcoholism sends him into liver failure, the two boys must come face-to-face with their demons-and each other-if they are going to survive an uncertain future.
Essentially, this is the story of a very broken family and I am kind of a sucker for stories about broken families. We have shy, sensitive Oscar who likes art and music and is constantly treading on egg shells around his older brother, Vance, who is sporty and outgoing, both of them very aware of their differences and how little they have in common. Life at home for Oscar gets worse after the death of their mother because neither his father or his older brother understand him and he doesn’t understand them and then that father drinks himself to death and these two broken teenagers need to learn to live together and work together if they’re going to get anywhere in this world and the whole thing is just so gloriously well written.
This is narrated by both Oscar and Vance. Oscar is telling you the present, the two of them sat together in a hospice essentially waiting for their father to die and trying to figure out what the hell he is going to do after that happens, because all he has is Vance and he is fairly sure Vance hates him.
Vance tells you the past, the events leading up to this moment of him and his brother sat in a hospice, of his fears about the future and what the hell he is going to do about it just being him and Oscar because he is fairly sure Oscar hates him.
Its all so angsty and I love it.
Vance and Oscar are both really well rounded and fleshed out, they’re so wildly different but also surprisingly similar with their own voices and motivations. You see from each of them their grief and their guilt and their fear over this situation and the whole thing pretty much takes place either in Vance’s memory or Oscar’s present in the hospice.
What we have isn’t a plot heavy story, in fact, there isn’t much of one, this is character driven from the first to the last page. It is a journey of discovery and development for these two boys. Oscar spends the book realising that he is loved and valued, even if the other men in his life don’t know how to show that, he is acknowledged by his peers and they do care about him as his own person, not just as Vance’s little brother and then we have Vance, who goes from desperately trying to hold onto his fragile idea of masculinity just so his dad would love and accept him to realising he can be his own man and still have that connection with his father, that life is about more than self destructing and that Oscar isn’t the enemy.
Something this book does well is conflict and reflection, not just between the two boys, but within themselves. Oscar feels guilty for wanting the whole thing to be over because he does love his father, he does want him to survive and he feels guilty about being so far removed from Vance. Again, we see Vance’s guilt, his reflecting on how he could have dealt with things differently, how he and Oscar could have grown together instead of apart.
It can be quite a difficult read at times, so for those of you who need them, a few trigger warnings, you have character death and descriptions of drug and alcohol misuse, and although these things are plot points, the book isn’t really about that. It’s about family and mending what you think is broken beyond repair.
Oooo I do love a family drama!
This book was given to me by the lovely folk at Netgalley and will be available from March this year!