Mackenzie Wells of UGA Reviews Stacy Padula’s Montgomery Lake High Book Series

Series Review by Mackenzie Wells, University of Georgia

Mackenzie Wells is a senior at the University of Georgia, majoring in English and public relations. She is a leader at the Wesley Foundation at UGA, the community outreach coordinator for UGA’s Undergraduate English Association, and a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Mackenzie has always had a passionate love for books and their ability to open doors to new worlds.


The Right Person takes an authentic glimpse into the lives and minds of high school freshmen. It can be easy to forget or ignore the pressures and social stresses placed on young teenagers, but this story provides an intimate view of the exciting and dramatic world of a group of freshmen at Montgomery Lake High. Throughout the book, several stories are progressing simultaneously. There is a story about Chris and Courtney, who recently started dating, but are already drifting apart. Meanwhile, Chris’s friends and Courtney’s friends are scrambling to solidify their groups for high school, and establish their place in the world. I recommend this book to teenagers entering into, or already in high school. There are important lessons in this book about the impacts of peer pressure and the ensnaring trap of drugs and alcohol. Under all the darkness of painful heartbreak and mistakes, there is a glimmer of the greatest hope available to mankind. Courtney and Chris help each other to find the light which initially drew them together. 


When Darkness Tries to Hide by Stacy Padula is an incredible story of community and redemption in the wake of a tragedy. Students at Montgomery Lake High think the dark clouds and impending storm will only cause a temporary interruption to their regularly scheduled lives. However, when the storm grows worse and one of their classmate’s lives hangs in the balance, the students of MLH must pull together to support each other and seek help for their friend. As the lines between cliques dissolve, secrets are revealed and hearts are changed. Stacy Padula’s second installment in the Montgomery Lake High series takes an honest look into the social lives of affluent high school students who are beginning to learn that popularity is not fulfilling their need for happiness. This book is desperately needed for its unapologetic look into the effects of drugs and alcohol in the lives of teenagers, as well as their journeys to escape such a destructive lifestyle. 


In The Aftermath, Fifteen-year-old Jason Davids is used to being the epitome of popularity at his school. He has the looks, the friends, the beautiful girlfriend, and success. Yet somehow he is not fulfilled and finds himself filling the void with drugs, alcohol, and cruelty. In the aftermath of a local tragedy, Jason sees his chance to break from his shallow and vindictive friends and make a fresh start. However, there is more going on in his school than meets the eye, and forces beyond his comprehension hold him back from escaping. In the midst of social and spiritual warfare, Jason learns who his true friends are and where he can place his trust. His battle to escape his worst vices is filled with ups, downs, and Jason’s eventual acceptance of his own inadequacies. Although Jason wants a life filled with meaning, he wonders if he has fallen too far to ever be pulled out of the pit he has dug for himself.


The Battle for Innocence is an extremely impactful book and an important read for teens today. It is an unfortunate truth that teenagers are confronted with so much darkness and danger in social situations on a regular basis. Stacy Padula’s writing brings dark situations to light and airs out dramatic grievances from characters’ pasts. This book sets up backstories for the other MLH books and explains how characters have changed over two years. It is eye-opening to see how quickly characters can fall into darkness when they lose the battle for innocence. This book centers around Chantal, Jon, and Andy in the beginning of 7th grade. They and their friend groups are just beginning to explore the world beyond their separate middle schools. In the process of finding themselves, they are all exposed to far more temptations and scandals than 7th graders should have to experience. Nonetheless, this book displays some of the struggles which are common for young teenagers and even pre-teens. As important as it is to shield young minds from evil, it is even more important to equip them with the knowledge and education to overcome it. This book introduces heavy subjects while also balancing them with biblical truths. 


A mixture between The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and a Nancy Drew novel, The Forces Within takes a poignantly authentic look at spiritual warfare – albeit disguised as a metaphor. A group of high school freshmen find themselves taking refuge in an old abandoned mansion deep in the woods. As mysterious occurrences begin to take place, the teenagers realize that the battle is for their lives – and their hearts. A shocking reminder of a too-often overlooked battle, this book is desperately needed to educate today’s generation. Although this book deals with a heavy topic which can take some guidance to understand, it is specifically aimed at young adults and approaches the issue in a way relevant to our lives. This book was the fifth in Stacy Padula’s Montgomery Lake High series. The appeal of the series is in the finely developed minutiae of the social web that is Montgomery Lake High. The relationships between the high schoolers in these novels run the gamut from soulmates to enemies. There are uplifting friendships in these novels, as well as self-destructive relationships, backstabbing, and sabotage. The drama which ensues will keep readers turning pages until the very end.