New Young Adult Book Takes a Startling Look at Mounting Social Pressures Amongst Teens

Article by Joanna Dakoyannis, Dover, MA

Gripped Part 2: Blindsided  is an excellent book for high school students to read for several reasons. First, it takes a startling look into the lives of teenagers and what their social experiences around drugs and sex can entail. The story also exemplifies what the effects of drug and alcohol abuse can do to relationships. The story shows signs to look out for and ways people can make a difference in their friends’ lives. By reading the Gripped book series, young adults can learn how drugs can impact every aspect of their lives, including grades, relationships, and athletic opportunities. People can also learn ways to be there for friends going through difficult times. Peer pressure can be a powerful catalyst for drug use, and Gripped Part 2 shows many examples of how people can either give in to it or choose to reject it.

A main theme in Gripped Part 2 is the importance of relationships and the influence that people can have on each other. There are characters who positively impact each other’s journeys and others who are detrimental to their friends and family members (albeit unwittingly). I find this very true to life, as people tend to justify their actions even when they are harmful to others. In particular, the book does an excellent job of explaining Taylor Dunkin’s rationale and backstory. We initially meet Taylor as a drug user and dealer, knowing that he was once an acclaimed college athlete but not understanding how he slipped into drug abuse. Blindsided elaborates on how Taylor became addicted to drugs and his reasons for dealing. It becomes easy to empathize with him, which is a bit eye-opening. Seeing how Taylor justifies his actions can teach readers how harmful self-deception can be. Taylor used to be a very good student, friend, and son. However, the drugs that he was prescribed by a doctor following two invasive knee surgeries thwart his perspective and ability to think clearly. This ultimately causes a shift in his personality, a loss of willpower, and an identity crisis. Towards the end of the book, we see Taylor beginning to put his academic and family life back together while trying to set his priorities straight. He is beginning to find himself again after painkillers turned him into a ghost of his true self.

Taylor’s younger cousin, Chris Dunkin, has a transformative story in Gripped Part 2. Chris, who begins as a heavy drug user, ends as someone who is trying to get his life together. He has a huge epiphany after a particularly bad night of partying. From this point on, he dedicates himself to turning his life around, even though it involves changing his friend group. Chris makes many difficult decisions and ultimately always tries to put the needs of others before his own. He selflessly ends his relationship with the girl he loves, Lisa Ankerman, because he does not want to add stress to her already difficult life. Truthfully, I think Chris and Lisa’s relationship was not built on solid ground to begin with. Chris was a drug and alcohol user throughout the entire time he dated Lisa. Although Lisa did not turn him onto drugs—and was, in fact, against drugs—I feel their relationship was not healthy for either one of them. I am honestly rooting for Chris to end up with Courtney Angeletti because she has stronger morals than Lisa and could be a great asset for Chris’s recovery.

Personally, my two favorite characters in the Gripped series so far are Chris and Taylor. While these are two of the characters most deeply entwined in illegal drug use, they are also two characters who undergo significant transformations. Chris and Taylor are examples of how people can be at the worst places in their lives but still redeem themselves. Through their determination, courage, and help from family and friends, they are able to start turning their lives around. While they will likely face many obstacles and challenges in the books ahead, Gripped Part 2 left me hopeful that redemption is possible.

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.