Written by Bradford Campbell, Duxbury, MA
As a senior in high school, I recommend Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told to students ranging in age from early to late teens. The storyline flips from an “in-time” plot, when the characters are mainly high school freshmen, to flashbacks of their middle school years. This allows a wide range of readers to put themselves in the shoes of the characters. I would also recommend Gripped Part 1 to parents who have a teenager, as they can better understand and relate to the current opioid crisis in America.
I have been to high school parties where both drugs and alcohol were present. Personally, I have made a conscious decision not to take part in mind altering substances. However, being around it, I have seen many of the negative impacts of drugs with my own eyes and have often been there for my friends when they needed help. Although I have never witnessed the tremendous amount of drugs in Gripped Part 1 at any of the parties I have attended, I am aware that parties like this happen.
One thing that I enjoyed about Gripped Part 1 was the many different character perspectives on drugs and alcohol. Specifically, Cathy Kagelli and Jason Davids start out as “straightedge” teenagers, but throughout the story it shows how they (and their friend group) slip into a downward spiral of drug abuse, when they initially viewed it all as short term and harmless. Further, another one of the characters, Taylor, the popular high school record-breaking quarterback who was the “star” of the town, is also overtaken by drugs as he tears his ACL, MCL and both menisci. Taylor not only loses football and his drive, he eventually gets hooked on opioids and begins selling drugs to support his habit. His business trickles down not only to his family but to Montgomery high school students, harming many lives in his community. I can further relate to this situation as I had a cousin who was injured and was prescribed opioids for pain. Eventually he needed more and followed a path similar to Taylor. Fortunately he eventually came out on the other side but it has taken way too many years for him to recover his life.
I like that Gripped Part 1 had a complex plot-line that kept me entertained on every page. There were also many overlapping themes that tied together. One such aspect that really interested me was the role of religion. In the story, Jon, Cathy and her sister Chantal, attend church and are in a youth group together. There were often times when Cathy prays to God asking for help or advice and it was interesting to see how these characters handle the parties and relationship drama different from other characters. Other themes that keep the plot interesting are the relationships between the characters, the bigger theme of sports and social groups, and the presence of drugs and alcohol at parties and its effect on all those involved.
I was actually so “gripped” by the plot-line of Gripped Part 1 that I ultimately was drawn to immediately start the next book of the series.
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.