In Spite of Their Flaws I Can’t Help but Love The “Gripped” Characters

Article by Jennifer O’Sullivan, Dover, MA

The evolution of the characters in the newly released Gripped book series by Stacy A. Padula keeps me eagerly turning the page. From Gripped Part 1 to Gripped Part 2, my perception of Taylor Dunkin has changed due to the way I now see his involvement in drugs. In Gripped Part 1, Taylor seemed like a kid who didn’t care about much except partying. He was failing out of school and not staying in contact with his family, which made him seem careless. In Gripped Part 2, the reader sees more into Taylor’s mindset and realizes that he is trying to stay away from his family to protect them from the pain of his addiction and withdrawals. Taylor’s sub-par school performance is explained when it is revealed that he is suffering from depression and is not just blowing off his responsibilities. The reader also realizes that Taylor got drawn into selling drugs by accident, and he isn’t even in it for the money. Additionally, Taylor tries to stop selling drugs once he realizes how deeply it has harmed kids from his hometown, and he feels uncomfortable giving drugs to Marc’s girlfriend Cathy. His consideration for others makes him seem more responsible and likeable in my eyes, which is different from how I originally saw him in Gripped Part 1. 

My opinion on Chris Dunkin has changed slightly since Gripped Part 1, but not drastically, because I was able to see the positive aspects of Chris’ personality before even reading Gripped Part 2. I think that Chris is portrayed as the “life of the party” who doesn’t care much about anyone else and just wants to have fun. In my opinion, Gripped Part 2 and the end of Gripped Part 1 show that in reality, Chris really cares about others. He feels lost because his relationship with his parents is strained, and he feels down on himself about his drug use. He feels as if he matters to nobody, so he uses drugs to cope with this. Although I could see this side of Chris in Gripped Part 1, it was even more apparent in Gripped Part 2. This story shows that Chris involves others in drugs not because he’s careless, but because he thinks that drugs will make others feel better and that it will help them cope with their current situations. Additionally, Gripped Part 2 gives a much more in-depth view of how Chris feels very shameful and sad about his drug use, despite others painting him as a careless, party-loving guy. This new perspective on Chris that I got through Gripped Part 2 allows me to more clearly see what motivated Chris’ decisions, and it reinforced the idea that I should not rely on the judgement of others to form my opinions on people. 

Both Gripped Part 1 and Gripped Part 2 show the struggles that Cathy Kagelli is facing and the relationships that fill her life. Although I think that Cathy and Jason Davids definitely loved each other and cared about each other, I think that Cathy and Marc Dunkin are a better fit for one another. Jason wants to care for Cathy, but the way in which he does ends up being harmful. Additionally, he tends to see the bad side in her, even though he knows the painful origin of her harsh personality, a large part of which can be attributed to him. I believe that Marc is a better fit for Cathy because as he is trying to help her, he considers only her needs and not his own. I also believe that Marc is willing to make more sacrifices for Cathy than Jason was. Marc also has a lot of experience in dealing with people who have substance abuse problems, so I think that he would have a very positive effect on Cathy’s life, because she needs someone who will discourage her from leading the lifestyle she is currently leading. Despite drugs being a large part of the issue in Cathy and Jason’s relationship, Jason also didn’t necessarily respect her morals. Even though Jason knew that Cathy did not want to be sexually active, he continued to pursue her and therefore tempted her. Marc is religious and more mature, so I think he would be better equipped to allow Cathy to get back in touch with her faith. Although I have always enjoyed Cathy and Jason’s relationship and thought that Jason was very sweet, I love Cathy as a character, and I think that she needs help in order to become the best she can be, which would be more likely to happen if she ends up with Marc.

After reading Gripped Part 1, I had formed the opinion that Chris and Lisa Ankerman’s relationship was superficial and that they cared about each other solely for looks and popularity. I saw Lisa as ditzy, and I wondered why she spent so much time with Chris when his life seemed to be on a downward spiral. Gripped 2 gave me a whole new perspective on Lisa and Chris’ relationship. This book shows that Chris loves Lisa a lot and sees her as the most important thing in his life. Additionally, Lisa sees Chris as someone who makes her really happy after the loss of her father, and her spirits are lifted when she is with him. I found it really considerate and selfless that Chris would break up with the person he loves the most, because he didn’t want to see her get hurt as a result of his actions. After seeing this part of the relationship and seeing how much they love one another, I hope for the best for their relationship in the future, because I think they are good for each other. After reading Gripped Part 1 and Gripped Part 2, my two favorite characters in this story are Lisa and Taylor. I like Taylor because I think that he really values what he has in his life and people admire him, but things still don’t come easily to him. Although he is known in Montgomery and at Northeastern as being the attractive, popular, football player, it is interesting to see how he, as well as other people like him who seem “perfect,” also has his own struggles and demons. Additionally, he loves his family and his siblings and looks out for everyone from his hometown. When he realizes that Luke is selling drugs to young kids from Montgomery, he stops selling those drugs and feels a great amount of guilt. Similarly, I like Lisa because I love to see what goes on in her mind and her heart underneath her cold facade. I admire that Lisa leads with her head and tries not to let emotions ruin things for her or get in the way of what she wants. I like that Lisa is driven and pursues her goal but she is also fun-loving and kind. I also greatly admire Lisa’s strength and think that she is very brave for staying strong after the death of her father. Overall, I enjoy reading about Lisa as a character because she is level-headed, kind, strong and determined: all things that I hope to be.


Jennifer O’Sullivan, a senior at Dover Sherborn High School, enjoys reading, playing the piano, spending time with friends and doing volunteer work. Jennifer leads her school’s community service club, runs on her school’s cross country and track teams and loves to travel, especially to Ireland where she spends time with friends and family.

Articles by Jennifer:

Why “The Right Person” is a Perfect Book for Teens

“The Right Person” by Stacy Padula Shows How Faith Can Benefit Teenagers

Jennifer O’Sullivan of Dover-Sherborn High School on “When Darkness Tries to Hide” by Stacy Padula

Jennifer O’Sullivan: There’s an Important Message for Teens in “When Darkness Tries to Hide”

A YA Book for Teens in Need of Inspiration

“The Battle for Innocence” is a Must-read for Christian Teens

Jennifer O’Sullivan on Jason Davids, Protagonist of The Aftermath

The Most Surprising Thing About The Battle for Innocence

Breaking Down the Spiritual Battle in The Forces Within

A Book Series All Teens Should Start Reading

A Look at Cathy, Jon, and Chantal in Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told

The Good & The Bad: Gripped’s Protagonist Taylor Dunkin

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.