This is the story of Gus.
And healing along the way.
“ … but the honest-to-God truth is I don’t even know how to function anymore. Bright Side wasn’t only my best friend; she was like my other half ... the other half of my brain, the other half of my conscience, the other half of my sense of humor, the other half of my creativity, the other half of my heart. How do you go back to doing what you did before, when half of you is gone forever?”
Confession: I bought this book back in May when it was released, but I have been unable to bring myself to read it until now. I have been simultaneously dying to read this book and wanting to avoid it. It's an interesting feeling that I have never experienced with a book.
I loved Bright Side. Kate's story was so heartbreakingly beautiful. She was beautiful. Her story left me a sobbing, emotional mess. It was more than a book hangover...it was grief. I grieved for this character. It was days (maybe a week) before I could pick up another book. I've never had a story stay with me like that, and I've read some amazing books. Shortly after finishing Bright Side, I found out that Kim was releasing Gus's story. I wanted to know what happened to Gus after he walked away from Kate's funeral. I wanted to hope that the devastation he was feeling would end, and that happier times awaited him. Yet when the book arrived, instead of diving into the pages, I found myself putting it aside. It sat on my bedside table for months, and every time I looked at it, I found myself thinking, "not yet." I wasn't ready to feel her loss again and again on each page.
I'm glad I waited until I was ready to read this book. I'm not sure I would have the same reaction to it had I read it right away. It's perfect, and I found myself once again wrapped up in the story from the very first page. I relived my feelings of grief right along side Gus, taking an emotional journey that lasted from the first page to the last. I was deeply sad like Gus, I was angry like Gus, I was disappointed in Gus, and eventually, I was hopeful like and for Gus. I loved Scout and I think Kate would have loved her too. I loved taking this journey of healing and hope with her and Gus. Kate was there every step of the way, too. Not physically, but her presence was definitely felt, and it was a good thing.
It was nice to be reminded of and to watch Gus remember Kate's ultimate lesson:
"There is something epic that happens in every day if you look hard enough for it. And every day is a chance to go out there and do epic. The key is putting forth the effort. She did. Every fucking day she did. We all should. Is it harder? Hell yeah. It's much easier to complain...or self-destruct...or do nothing at all. But where's the magic in that?"
Life is hard, and it is easy to get bogged down in the negative. Kate certainly could have. The hand she was dealt certainly didn't make for an easy life. She could have become bitter, cynical, and hateful, but instead she chose to make the most of the life she had been given. She chose to see the "bight side." And Gus (eventually) does the same. He could have continued down his destructive path and lost everything, but he realizes that by doing this, he would miss out on all the good stuff too. The same can be said of Scout and everyone else who knew and loved her. Her example is life altering. We all have different definitions of "epic," but really what it boils down to is those moments in life that make it all - the pain, the strife, the struggle, the disappointment, etc. - worth it.
But "Do Epic" isn't a passive thing. I think Gus sums it up best:
"I’m at the tipping point of a transformation that began months ago, an intentional decision put in motion. And it feels so fucking good. I’ve come to the full realization that my happiness, my life, falls squarely on my shoulders. No one’s gonna do it for it me. I’m the one who makes it or breaks it.
It’s a choice.
A choice that demands action in exchange for reward. Idleness and complacency lead to mediocrity. Sometimes action is really fucking hard fought, but that’s when the payoff’s the highest.
That’s when great things happen.
Not good things … but epic things.
And I’ve fallen in love with epic.
It’s the only way to live.”
"Do Epic" is a choice that you make every day. It's choosing to seize the opportunities that come your way and choosing to see the bright side in everything life throws at you. It's about being an active participant in life, even when it's hard, because that's what makes life worth it. That and the people you chose to take along on the journey. This is the lesson that I took away from Kate and Gus's stories. It's probably one of the most important lesson I've ever learned. That is why these books and these characters will forever be in my heart. All of these characters - Kate, Gus, Scout, Keller, all of them - are amazing examples of what it means to "Do Epic." It is something that I will strive to live out in my life every day. This is Kate's legacy. Thank you Kim Holden for these books and these characters. I am forever indebted to you and your talent.
There's only one thing left to say...DO EPIC!!