New Fiction Book Series Takes a Compelling Look at Teenage Substance Abuse in Massachusetts

Article by Joanna Dakoyannis, Dover, MA

The first book in the Gripped series, Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy A. Padula takes a compelling look at substance abuse in the lives of high school, middle school, and college students. The story builds off of Padula’s Montgomery Lake High book series, incorporating the same characters in a different timeframe. Gripped Part 1 cleverly uncovers the back-story of several intriguing characters, including Jason Davids, Cathy Kagelli, Chantal Kagelli, Jon Anderson, Alyssa Kelly, Marc Dunkin, and Taylor Dunkin. The characters range in age from twelve to twenty-three, further emphasizing that drugs and alcohol can enter people’s lives at any stage. This book easily draws the reader in, using real-life, relatable social situations to display how easy it can be for good kids to get caught up in substance abuse.

Gripped Part 1 begins with a twist, focusing on Taylor Dunkin: a former student-athlete from Montgomery Lake High School.  Although previously an All-Star athlete, a knee injury has led Taylor to become gripped by a painkiller addiction. The story discusses the people who surround Taylor, specifically, his family and friends. It captures the reader’s attention by flashing from past to present, giving you a glimpse into the events that shaped these compelling and multi-faceted characters. At the story’s center is the negative impact substance abuse can have on teens’ lives and relationships. Although many questions are answered, the story leaves the reader anxious to uncover how Taylor’s dilemma will turn out. Gripped Part 1 is a provocative start to this next series by Stacy Padula that should not be skipped.


In high school, Taylor Dunkin broke more records than any other athlete to step foot in Montgomery, Massachusetts. As a sophomore in college, he was ranked by ESPN as one of the NFL’s top 100 prospects. However, his aspirations came to a jarring halt when a knee injury and two surgeries left him sidelined.

One year later, Taylor is a person of interest in a highly confidential investigation headed by the Boston Police Department. He has entangled himself in a crime ring notorious for pushing opiates, cocaine, and benzodiazepines on local college campuses.

When Taylor’s younger brother Marc discovers that Taylor is behind the copious drug supply circulating around Montgomery Lake High School, he sets off to not only reverse the damage Taylor has caused, but also save his lifelong role model from becoming a casualty of America’s deadly opioid epidemic.

In its release week, Gripped was ranked by Amazon as the #1 New Release on Kindle in its genre

About Joanna Dakoyannis

Joanna Dakoyannis is a senior at Dover-Sherborn High School. She enjoys creative writing, traveling, going to the gym, running track for her high school team and loves cheering on the team at school sporting events. She plans to be a science major in college and hopes to eventually attend dental school.

Other Articles by Joanna:

An Exceptional Book I Recommend to Teens & Preteens

Q&A with Joanna Dakoyannis on “The Right Person” by Stacy Padula

May’s Q&A with Joanna Dakoyannis of Dover Sherborn High School

Joanna Dakoyannis Reviews “When Darkness Tries to Hide” by Stacy Padula

July’s Q&A with Joanna Dakoyannis on The Aftermath by Stacy Padula

“The Aftermath” is an Encouraging Book for Teens

Joanna Dakoyannis on The Battle for Innocence

The Battle for Innocence is An Eye-opening Book for Teens

The Forces Within by Stacy Padula: an Excellent Teen Read

Joanna Dakoyannis’s Interview on The Forces Within

Published by Author Stacy A. Padula

Stacy Padula has spent the last 14 years working daily with teenagers as a college counselor, mentor, and life coach. She was named "Top Inspirational Author of the Year" for 2022 by the International Association of Top Professionals (New York, NY). In 2021, she was broadcast on the famous Reuters Building in Times Square as "Empowered Woman of the Year." Her Gripped book series is currently being adapted for TV by Emmy-winning producer Mark Blutman. She is the founder and CEO of Briley & Baxter Publications: a publishing company that donates a portion of its proceeds to animal rescues each month. She has edited and published a variety of titles, including Boston Bruins Anthem Singer Todd Angilly and Rachel Goguen's The Adventures of Owen & the Anthem Singer, LaTonya Pinkard of Netflix's Last Chance U's Nate & His Magic Lion, and former NHL player Norm Beaudin's memoir The Original: Living Life Through Hockey. Stacy resides in Plymouth, Massachusetts with her husband Tim and two miniature dachshunds, Briley and Baxter.