“A thin string of regret ties around my heart. And tightens.”
Official Synopsis from Goodreads
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.
GENRE: Young Adult / Teen Fiction FORMAT: Kindle Edition PUBLICATION DATE: March 7th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire GET A COPY: Apple iBooks / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING: Alcoholism, Smoking, Death
If there’s one book that you both should and shouldn’t read at night, this would be it. I started reading this at such an unholy hour and I was reminded of so many things that are going on in my life that I have overlooked and taken for granted. A certain kind of pain I am not comfortable talking about and try so hard to conceal every single day keeps on resurfacing every time I return to read this book. It’s paralyzing. I guess I was just not prepared for the blow and it hit me so good. Ultimatum by K.M Walton is a powerful story about family, love, loss, and acceptance. This book is actually so hard to review because I do not know how I will convey the intensity of the emotions I felt while reading this. The story is so relatable, so real, and so penetrating that I had to forcefully make myself stop in-between paragraphs just to breathe and to put myself together.
The story revolves around the two brothers, Vance and Oscar and their dying father. Vance is so different from Oscar and they both knew it. Everybody does. (In the book, at least). Vance, who, in my judgment, is an extrovert. He is a party-animal who smokes weed, is into sports particularly lacrosse and is a teenager who is so, so frustrated at his overly-sad and emotional brother named Oscar. He also loves pissing his brother off by blasting reggae. Vance, as described in the book, looks exactly like their mother, Peggy. He has green eyes, straight, light brown hair, and an oval face and according to Oscar, Vance is better looking than almost every guy in their school. On the other hand, Oscar looks so much like the person he’s so mad at: his father. Just like his father, he too has full lips, big brown eyes and wavy hair. He is also into music particularly classical music. He loves the sound of violin and he can play the piano. Unlike Vance, Oscar is obsessed with drawing people often… secretly, but his deceased mother saw and adored his talent.
I sketched her the day before the accident. She was on the phone complaining about my dad to my aunt Renee. She had no idea I was drawing her. She cried when I showed it to her and hugged me for the longest time. She said I’d somehow managed to show her broken heart through her eyes.
He loves to be alone and is sad/depressed most of the time and this is because he misses his mother, the only person who had a connection with him and who saw the real him and loved him very dearly. In contrast, he often feels like Vance and their father didn’t understand him or even tried to.
My Little League career ended that season. So did me ever having a chance of receiving respect from my father and brother.
I also personally think that Oscar is an INFP like me. They way he describes himself in this book, how he feels in some situations and just how he reacts to socially “not-awkward awkward” situations really convinced me that he is. Just like the majority of the INFPs, Oscar is also into art and music and feels a very deep connection with himself and feels jut everything all at once. (If someone out there has read this book and is an expert in Psychology, please correct me if I’m wrong. Immediately! Haha.)
Vance and Oscar are both dynamic characters and the story is told in their alternating point of views. I love reading their dialogues, monologues, especially their thoughts. Their actions and feelings toward each other were presented very clearly and carefully and it will make any reader understand the many reasons why they became who they are at present. Their anger towards each other separated them and made them miss out on a lot of things and this aspect is too real for me because it does happens in real life. And some parts of this story happened to me, to my family. And it kind of sucks. Anyway, the development of these characters is so profound and I really felt the warmth all over my body when I’m towards the nearing end of the story.
The story is fast-paced. I could’ve finished this in one sitting if I hadn’t been busy this week. It is just so hard to put down. I always cared and am curious about what will happen next although the plot is not that big and is only centered at their family life and the impending death of their remaining parent who is their father.
One more thing I like about this book is how honest and raw but at the same time ugly relationship their parents have had. Their dad became extremely alcoholic after his wife died on a car accident.
Dad treated her like shi*. She wasn’t happy I saw it in her eyes in your drawing. I saw it in her eyes in real life. And Dad definitely wasn’t happy. I think all the drinking he did after she died was his guilt. Deep down, I think he knew he fuc**d up.
The two brothers felt the guilt their father must’ve felt because of what happened and they think their mother had committed suicide and did not really accidentally die.
I mean, her car crash was ruled an accident but I knew better. The last thing I’d heard her scream at my dad was, “I can’t take this anymore, Steve. I want out!” Then our back door slammed and the tires of her car squealed down the street. I think she turned that steering wheel on purpose. She knew her car would crash into that tree.
What if he pushed her to the edge?
I wonder what Dad must think of us, standing […] discussing the possibility of Mom committing suicide because of him.
I’ve been wrestling with that question since her burial. Probably thought about it a thousand times–I don’t know, maybe more.
After reading this book, I just couldn’t move. I cried while reading this and I think the beauty of Ultimatum is best seen in its powerful ability to connect to the readers. The author has crafted a painfully honest tale of love and loss and Walton is one of the few experts in telling a beautiful tale like this. I am speechless and I want to say a lot about this book at the same time but I couldn’t bring my fingers to type everything I needed to but one thing is sure: this book does not disappoint.
Please do yourself a huge favor; just go ahead and read this. I highly recommend this to everyone even to those who do not fancy reading contemporary books that much. I think this could change your perspective of those books. I really think it would.
Again, this is the first book written by K.M Walton and I would LOVE to read her other books as this has touched me so hard. I want more!
- Maybe emotionally skating above the surface simplifies things.
- She looked me in the eye and tried to figure out what was going on inside my heart.
- I’d only drawn what I saw. I had no idea that I’d done something so profound, so important for an artist. I’d captured loneliness.
- So I did the only thing that felt normal: I retreated.
- A little kid can only be scrutinized so many times by the two most important males in his life before things register in his brain, before he stops looking for acceptance. Before he stops expecting love and happiness.
- Besides feeling crappy about my inability to interact with people, I am also pathetically superficial. I can’t believe I’m allowing someone’s looks and scent to affect me so deeply.
- There was no one left at home who valued my presence, who cared about what I thought, who wanted to spend time with me.
- It was so easy to slide into my shell. Who would ever pull me out?
- I’m just plain lost.
- If he would stop being such a whiner, he could actually have a life.
- I wanted to tell them the truth–that she was in love with a guy who didn’t know how to love her back.
- There are people I talk to in my classes–people who are nice to me and to whom I return the niceness–but I’m a loner.
- It’s not something I worry about; it’s just me. Being myself brings me peace. I’m not a people person.
- It felt good form me to have my own space. Besides, no one’s into what I’m into, so I’ve found it useless to try to include people in my world.
- What would having someone here actually do for me?
- The reasons and memories behind my feelings are many and painful.
- The music was where I went–where I go–when I needed to put myself back together. Note by note. Especially when I was drawing. It was as if the music itself breathed life into my sketches, each lift and sway of the instruments, each bit of intensity or gentleness guided my hands. Those moments brought me happiness.
- The music is satisfying. Welcoming even. The familiarity of the notes feels like safety, like home, like happiness.
- “If he were my father, I’ be really pissed off. You are allowed to be angry with him, Vance. It’s not fair he’s out of control all the time.”
- I hate losing almost as much as I hate the quiet.
- Even if I were a normal conversationalist, I don’t think I’d have a response to those kind of words.
- My mom is like that. She’s got this quiet confidence, this pride. She just believes in herself. God, I want to be like that. She’s the polar opposite of my dad.
- Looking someone in the eye, saying their first name–really seeing them–is how human interaction should be done.
- Why would my father only talk about us when we weren’t there? Why couldn’t he tell us we were “the best part about him” to our faces?
- The reality is incredibly jagged. The cut will never be clean; it will never heal properly.
- There will always be a scar. I want to scream.
- Cheating was a choice. Why wouldn’t Dad have loved Mom the way she deserved? Why did he have to rip her out all the time?
- A bathroom stall is the only place I could think of where I’d have quiet and privacy.
- Sorrow erupts in my heart, melting me from the inside.
- I am about to shatter with a hideous mixture of heartache and anxiety.
- Stupid? That was the exact path I took after graduating from high school.
- A thin string of regret ties around my heart. And tightens.
- I zoned out as terrifying thought after terrifying thought bounced around inside my skull.
- Respect and love. These are not insignificant words. They are colossal. Their weight would crash them through the floor, through the foundation, through the ground. They would be forced to reassemble in the center of the earth. That’s how massive these words are that are coming from my head.
- Death can sometimes kill a family. Other times, a rebirth occurs.
- Alcohol liked to eat the truth. It stuffed itself on honesty until it couldn’t hold any more.
- I’d never forget how he’d lived his life–with freedom, with a fierceness.
- Like every human being, I’m sure he had regrets but he didn’t let them box him up. He powered onward.
- Discussing my motivation for smoking wasn’t his business.
- Would he want my sketches in with him for all of eternity?
- Hungry for someone, anyone to be happy to see me.
- My father lived his life, stains and all.
- A powerful surge of anger shot through my body like a million pistols unloading their bullets.
- Who will call us down on Christmas morning?
- Words seem like too much right now.
- Love is the emotion that rips you up memory by memory.
- My mother’s love was never in question; it was always Dad’s.
- I don’t want my memories to shred me. They need to hold me together.
- My brain is short circuiting with pain, confusion, shock and longing.
- So to have you tell me– to my face– that you think I’m good means everything to me.
- I could tell you had a lot going on underneath the surface. That intrigued me.
- It was like I saw everything differently.
- It’s the way it [classical music] allowed me to remain introverted but all the while challenging me with its aesthetic lure.
MEET K.M WALTON
K.M. Walton is the author of Cracked (Simon Pulse 2012), Empty (Simon Pulse 2013), and the forthcoming Ultimatum (Sourcebooks 3/2017). She is editing & contributing to the exciting new music-centered anthology Behind the Song (Sourcebooks 9/2017). She is also the co-author of Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking (Corwin Press 2011) a book for mathematics teachers K – 8. As a former middle-school language-arts teacher she’s passionate about ending peer bullying. She gives powerful school & University presentations on “The Power of Human Kindness.” K.M. is a graduate of West Chester University and a PAWLP fellow. She lives in PA with her husband, two sons, and cat.