Why “Gripped” is a Must Read for Every High School Student

Written by Caroline Markley of Marshfield, Massachusetts

Caroline Markley, Marshfield, Massachusetts

As a senior in high school, I recommend the young adult novel Gripped by Stacy A. Padula to my friends and classmates. This book is about teenagers in high school, and it talks about what they are going through—socially, personally, and emotionally—so it is easy for people my age to relate to. I loved this book because I found it easy to connect with the dynamic characters. I believe every student should have a chance to read this book because it can help them navigate through some difficult but common situations. The book educates readers on the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse, but in an entertaining way that keeps you wanting to turn the page. I believe this book will keep the interest of all teenagers and teach them valuable lessons that will be important to know before entering college.

As a student-athlete, I have heard stories and speeches by people who have become addicted to opioids after sports-related injuries. I have also heard about how addiction ruined their athletic careers. However, through these public speakers, I only heard one side of the story, but Gripped allowed me to see different viewpoints of what it is like to be addicted to opiates, as well as what it is like to care about someone who is. Readers have the view of hometown hero Taylor Dunkin and his younger brother Marc, as well as others who are affected by Taylor’s drug use. 

While reading the novel, I felt bad for Taylor because he had an amazing career set out for him and because of his injury (and his addiction to opioids that followed), this chance is nearly ruined. He was the hero in his hometown, everyone looked up to him, and he just deteriorated into a shell of the person he used to be. However, I liked how Taylor begins to turn his life around. It was nice to see that Marc wanted to help him, despite the pain Taylor caused their family. I believe that Marc did the right thing when he told his parents about what was happening with Taylor, and I liked how his father wanted to help Taylor, even though Taylor felt he did not deserve his family’s support. The story shows the importance of family sticking together during times when bonds are tested. It also demonstrates that there are times to let go and times to hold onto relationships. The reader sees Marc cut ties with Taylor when it was in Taylor’s best interest. The loss of their relationship moves Taylor to examine his life and begin detoxing. Months later, when Marc is approached by a detective who is investigating a local crime ring, Marc cooperates with the police to help Taylor even though they have not spoken in some time.

A strong message in Gripped is that even if you make a mistake in your life, no matter how bad it is, you can still turn your life around and rebuild what you had. You don’t have to stay at rock bottom. You have the choice to make yourself better. This book also shows readers that it is okay to ask for help when you are struggling. You may not want to, but people are willing to help you if you ask for it. 

At the end of the book, I was most curious to uncover the police investigation with Taylor and their plan to catch the drug dealer. What happened between Marc and the detectives was very intriguing and left me wanting to know more about the different storylines.  I look forward to reading Gripped Part 2: Blindsided and recommend every high school student pick up a copy of Gripped Part 1 as soon as possible.


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 Caroline Markley

Caroline is a senior at Marshfield High School, where she is the goalie of the Varsity lacrosse team and in National Honor Society. She is an avid horseback rider who competes nationally and also an impressive artist. Caroline has a passion for the environment and hopes to study environmental science in college.

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.