Y.A. Novel Shows Drugs Have No Boundaries: Good Kids Are Vulnerable Too

Written by Bradford Campbell, Duxbury, MA

Bradford Campbell is currently a senior at Thayer Academy. He is captain of their Varsity Soccer and Track and Field teams. In school, Bradford is a 2020 Student Government Representative and Peer Advisor for freshman students. He also enjoys volunteering for Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity. Bradford participates in Thayer’s theatre program and his favorite subjects include science and history in addition to English.

There is a famous saying, “School should not get in the way of your education.” This is one of the times where this quote comes into play. Even though there is frequent drug use, there are many lessons that can be learned from Gripped Part 2, so it should be considered for high school students. The book provides tangible insight into the harm that drug and alcohol use can have on family, friends and a community. It shows that drugs have no boundaries and that nobody is safe from the extensive reach of drugs and alcohol, as the “good kids” (Taylor, Jason, and Cathy) all fall victim to substances. 

At the beginning of the Gripped series, Chris Dunkin seems like a very popular kid who hosts all of the parties in town under the supervision of his “famous” cousins, who house-sit him when his parents are out of town. Everyone knew the Dunkins due to their football legacy and legendary parties and so Chris was also wrapped into this “fame”. Since Chris was around all of these older kids, he was exposed to drugs and alcohol at a young age and was not properly educated about the dangers of what he was putting into his body. Because of these peers, Chris is very advanced for his age, which leads him to introduce substances to his young group of friends. One of the most powerful moments in Gripped Part 2 for me was when Chris reflects on how he got all of his friends hooked on drugs. I actually feel sympathetic towards him because he did not mean to cause his friends harm, he just wasn’t taught any better. 

Honestly, I did not like Taylor Dunkin at the beginning of the Gripped series. The book opens with Marc trying to wake his brother Taylor whom he found laying in the fetal position. Whether he had taken too many drugs or was in withdrawal, he was in a bad place. Throughout the series, the reader can see how Taylor tries to clean up his act. He gets sober and decides he wants to play football again.  He meets with an advisor from Northeastern University in hopes of transferring colleges. In addition, he tries to get out of selling drugs, but unfortunately is reapproached by his “dangerous” boss. By the end of Gripped Part 2, I start to warm up to Taylor as he realizes all of the damage he accidentally caused and how he is trying to set everything right.   

So far, my two favorite characters through the Gripped series are Marc and Jason. First, I have always liked Marc because he is living the best version of himself, and does not get involved in any of the substances that hold many of the other characters back. Further, he is a leader and role-model who looks out for others and is a positive influence on those around him. I also like the compassionate and respectful way that Jason treats Cathy. He is intelligent, energetic, witty and always seems to have good ideas. He, like Marc, is a natural leader and is really good at reading people and their feelings. 

Fourteen-year-old Chris Dunkin is known for being the life of the party and everyone’s favorite friend. Despite his amicable nature, he carries around deep-seated pain from his childhood that he frequently numbs with alcohol and drugs.

After hosting a party, Chris awakes with a strange vibe running through his body and no recollection of the previous night. When he learns the horrifying truth of what his night entailed, the trajectory of his life is changed forever.

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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.