New Young Adult Book Series Exposes the Dark Truths of Teenage Substance Abuse

Written by Abby Fusco, Marshfield, MA

Abby Fusco is a senior at Marshfield High School. She has always enjoyed painting her dog, Teddy—a King Charles Cavalier. Her paintings made perfect gifts for her mother, and this inspired her to begin painting pet portraits for her friends and family. She founded A.R.F. Pet Portraits in 2020, where people can order paintings of their beloved animals by uploading a photo through her website. Abby’s love for animals inspired to donate 100% of the proceeds from her paintings to the Marshfield Animal Shelter.

As a senior in high school, I recommend Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told to teenagers and anyone who wants to learn about high school drama or the serious side of growing up in today’s world. I personally loved the book, as I usually read coming of age stories. I would especially recommend Gripped to people who have experienced drug addiction or know someone who has struggles that relate to the plot.

As a young adult, I relate to Gripped because I know many individuals in high school that either struggle with using drugs or struggle to stay sober. I have also experienced the same peer pressure that the characters face in the book. I specifically relate to the struggles presented in young relationships and friendships. My favorite part of the story is its complex relationships and the issues that develop. For example Chantal Kagelli and Jon Anderson’s relationship is very up and down with a lot of secrets hidden throughout.

There are a few different storylines running through Gripped Part 1, as it sets up the rest of the series. I find Marc Dunkin’s story the most interesting, involving his relationship with Cathy and his older brother Taylor’s problems. I think that Marc is the most inspiring character and that he sends a great message. I hope that his story is more developed in Gripped Part 2: Blindsided because it is not in the forefront of Part 1. I am most interested in Taylor Dunkin’s future and if he will help the police or not. I think that there will be a lot more information about how he approaches the situation in the next part. Also, I am curious if Cathy will end things with Marc and go back to her ex-boyfriend, Jason Davids, now that Jason has changed for the better.

Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told sends a message about how harmful drugs can be to a teenager’s future, health, and safety. The reader gains an understanding about how easily people can be pulled into the world of alcohol and drugs through their peers, as well as how hard it can be to say “no.” I highly recommend it as an enjoyable and eye-opening read for teenagers.


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.

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.