The Flashbacks Kept Me Gripped – “Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors”

Michael Farinacci

By Michael Farinacci, University of Notre Dame

In Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors by Stacy Padula, I loved the multiple, intertwining storylines. It seemed as if every time a question was answered, at least two more questions arose due. The book also contained lots of action and different scenes, which made it a quick read for a fairly long novel.

I enjoyed that “Smoke & Mirrors” started in the present, went into the past for the majority of the book, and then returned to the present at the end. From the first chapter to the end, the book didn’t move along very far in time, but the various flashbacks uncovered the many backstories of the main characters, which will undoubtedly affect how they deal with their current situation. Additionally, by starting the novel with the answers, it makes the reader want to discover the questions as fast as possible.

Through the flashbacks, the reader gains insight into the characters’ motives, rationales, past hurts, and experiences, which enrich the present-day story. After reading the first four books in the Gripped series, I have gained a deeper understanding of many characters, and my point of view on each has evolved.

Jordan Dunkin: As I began to understand at the end of “Gripped Part 3,” I still believe Jordan is misunderstood. He had a reputation for partying in high school, but he seems to be a really nice person, who also happens to be one of the most talented athletes in the nation. He also seems very selfless, as he damaged his relationship with his brother Marc to protect many of his friends.

Taylor Dunkin: I feel bad for Taylor. He lost everything, became depressed, and turned to drugs, which is tragic. However, he seems to have sobered up, but only “Gripped Part 5” will tell whether he can actually get out of the drug business.

Jason Davids: Although I don’t condone what Jason has done, I understand his troubles and do feel bad for him. He lost his best friend, Chris, with whom he tried and started to abuse many drugs. I also feel bad for him when he is forced to take Adderall—which he seems to be addicted to—by his parents. He seems to have too much pressure on his shoulders. However, he must find a way to try to make up for the past and sober up in the future.

Cathy: Cathy seems to be in a good place right now, so I’m happy for her. However, once Marc leaves for Boston College, I’m unsure how Cathy will react. Jason will undoubtedly try to get Cathy back, which could take an enormous toll on Cathy’s mental health.

Luke Davids: I do not like Luke. He has intentions to be friends with everybody, which is benevolent, but he goes way too far to make these friends. He thinks getting drugs for people will get him friends, but it can only lead him down a dark path.

Many interesting storylines are leading into “Gripped Part 5.” How the Dunkin family will deal with Taylor is at the top of the list. It is clear Taylor had a problem, but “Gripped Part 4” offered hope and optimism for his future. However, it seems that this optimism may be dwindling, as Taylor has put himself and the Dunkin family in a dire situation.

About Michael

A Medfield, Massachusetts native, Michael Farinacci graduated in 2020 from St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, Massachusetts. He was a part of his high school’s newspaper, The Walrus, and multiple athletic teams. He was also an editor for the St. Sebastian’s Journal. In addition to writing, he has a passion for mathematics, which he is currently pursing as a freshman at the University of Notre Dame.

Other Articles by Michael:

A Junior from St. Sebastian’s School Shares His Opinion of “Gripped Part 1” by Stacy A. Padula

Michael Farinacci Reviews Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told

May’s Q&A with Michael Farinacci of St. Sebastian’s School

Looking Ahead to Gripped Part 2 with Michael Farinacci

Michael Farinacci of St. Sebastian School Reviews Gripped Part 2: Blindsided

A Rising Senior’s Take on Stacy Padula New Release Gripped Part 2: Blindsided

An Editorial Review of Stacy Padula’s Soon to be Released Gripped Part 3: The Fallout

New YA Book Educates Teens about Prescription Drug Abuse—Is It Controversial?

Jordan Dunkin, the Black Sheep of Gripped or Not?

New Teen Series Educates Readers About The Root Causes of Substance Abuse

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.