Transformative Characters Leave Teens Gripped

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.

Written by Abby Fusco, Marshfield, MA

Throughout Gripped parts 1 and 2 of Stacy Padula’s young adult book series, the reader sees many sides of the characters as time passes, history is revealed, and people learn from mistakes. In the beginning of Gripped 1, Taylor Dunkin seemed like a clear “bad” character who had not only thrown his life away because of drugs, but was also trying to bring other people down with him. By the end of Gripped 1, I believed there was a slight chance Taylor could turn things around for the better. In Gripped 2, Taylor’s true story comes out through his push for sobriety and strength to be more than just his addiction. Taylor has now become one of my favorite characters, when he was almost at the bottom of the list after reading Gripped 1.

In the beginning of the series, Taylor’s cousin Chris seemed like all he wanted to do was party and try new drugs without any concerns about consequences. In this last book, I learned that there was more to Chris than I thought. I can see that Chris’ craving for parties and substances came from his unhealthy home life with his absent parents and lack of sober people to look up to. I think Chris is more inspirational and shows how one near-death experience can be a wake-up call to surround yourself with positive influences.

So far in the series, my two favorite characters are Cathy and Jason. Cathy continues to be one of the characters both books have focused on. Her struggle to follow her morals has been a recurring theme throughout the series. I relate to her struggle to not cave into peer pressure and try to be the best person she can be by helping the ones she loves. Jason is similarly one of my favorites. Jason’s loving nature and hope to help his friends is truly admirable. It is clear that he wants Chris to be better and wants to be better himself, too. Although Marc Dunkin has been one of my favorite characters throughout both books and has shown how not using drugs can allow someone to reach his or her full potential, I hope Cathy and Marc stop dating so that she and Jason can end up back together. Cathy and Jason’s past relationship and connection is something that is so unique. It is clear they belong together. The relationships and transformative characters in Stacy Padula’s book series will leave teen readers gripped.

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