By Mackenzie Wells, Athens, GA
Intrigued. That’s the best word to describe how I felt as I read Stacy Padula’s “Gripped 3: The Fallout.” Honestly, I was intrigued by the increasing police interventions, both at the teenagers’ parties and in Taylor Dunkin’s case as it progresses. The very real likelihood of the law catching up to these characters made their decisions feel more real and more drastic. Every choice that was made—whether it was going to a party, participating in something, or having illicit drugs in their system—seemed to put them on a dangerous precipice. I no longer felt like there was no chance of them being caught; I just kept expecting it around the next corner. That anticipation built and kept me turning the pages, wondering who would escape the law and who would be caught.
The characters’ mindsets are also quite intriguing. Each one feels justified in beginning their use of drugs. No matter what the situation, the characters believe that their reason for using drugs is valid and justified beyond reproach. Some of them are pressured into their actions by outside stimuli, while others are pushed by their inner stimuli. None of them set out to ruin their lives or hurt those around them, but they obviously don’t see the big picture.
Courtney Angeletti definitely frustrates me the most throughout this book, but seeing her situation as the “new girl” in the group allows for me to see how an outsider would view this group and their current relationships. At the beginning of the series, the reader is first introduced to a rather innocent group of tweens who are building their clique. By this point in the series, however, they are a very different group of friends, and a lot has transpired among them. As Courtney tries to find her place, I am intrigued by her desires and how she views the individuals within the group.
I was enthralled by Chris Dunkin’s drastic change, and I wanted to know if he would truly continue in his new life style. I didn’t feel that Courtney was actually deserving of him or that he should try to base his recovery on a relationship that could be so fickle. I was very impressed that he cut ties with Jason when he recognized that they brought out the worst in each other. Both Jason and Chris needed to turn their lives around, and I was drawn into the storyline of Chris overcoming his struggles. As he works to overcome his vices, the reader can’t help but root for him and recognize the strength in his decisions.
I am actually very intrigued to find out more about Chris’s older cousin, Jordan Dunkin. He is sort of an enigma in these books, as he has only been shaped by the opinions of others. I can tell that Marc Dunkin has an erroneous view of his brother and has allowed a grudge to hinder his judgement. Jordan is continuously given a bad rap as the “black sheep” of the family, but he doesn’t seem to be making nearly as many mistakes as his older brother. The difference between his reputation and the bit that readers know about him by Gripped 3 makes him an incredibly interesting character I hope to get to know better in Gripped 4.
Mackenzie graduated in 2020 from the University of Georgia, majoring in English and public relations. She is a leader at the Wesley Foundation at UGA, the community outreach coordinator for UGA’s Undergraduate English Association, and a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Mackenzie has always had a passionate love for books and their ability to open doors to new worlds. She is excited to assist Stacy Padula in making a change in the young adult community.