A High School Senior’s Take on Taylor & Marc Dunkin in ‘Gripped Part 1’

Jack Stanton

Jack is a senior at Medfield High School where he is the founder and president of the school’s Investment Club. He has a passion for business and finance, engaging his interests in other business-related clubs such as DECA. Jack is a member of the Varsity Lacrosse and Hockey teams and works as a vendor at Fenway Park throughout the summer. Additionally, he works with the Medfield Coalition for Suicide Prevention to help raise awareness for mental health in both his school and town. Jack’s favorite subjects include English, mathematics, and Mandarin, and he is also the president of MHS’s Mandarin Club. 

While most readers of Stacy Padula’s Gripped series may feel bad for Taylor Dunkin due to the tragic incident that led him to his lifestyle of substance abuse, I feel bad for his youngest brother Marc. While nobody in my immediate family has ever struggled from abuse, especially to the extent that Taylor does, I relate to Marc, which allows me to feel his pain. His unique situation, which I find to be rather common in today’s climate, pushes me to find similarities between the two of us. Marc is responsible and tends to learn from his brother’s mistakes, whereas other characters in the novel do not have the same experiences and fall into the same hole as Taylor.  Seeing friends go through abuse of any sort is a heartbreaking sight. I notice kids going through similar struggles as Taylor and think about two things: the lost potential and how much they must be struggling on the inside. It is clear that Taylor is left to fight the burdens of being a “disappointment” and not achieving his full potential, but it leaves the reader wondering what demons he must be fighting without anyone knowing. With that being said, Taylor frustrates me the most out of all the characters. In my opinion, which may be naive because I have never been in Taylor’s shoes, transitioning from using drugs to selling drugs crosses the line. What turns from an internal struggle moves to a new conflict that affects potentially hundreds of others. Something I have noticed while in high school is that those who are willing to hurt themselves will likely turn to others, which translates into pushing drugs on other peers. 

The most interesting storyline to me is Taylor’s complicated relationship with the police. While Taylor appears to have learned from his mistakes, he is tied into a larger issue with selling drugs. It is clear that Taylor is disappointed in himself, but the issues he faces and how he will inevitably resolve them intrigues me. With such a bright future ahead of him, Taylor’s recovery of sorts makes the novel exciting because one of the major issues from the beginning of the novel has been resolved. However, the issues that come out of his previous actions makes the reader want to know more. The entire novel has built up suspense regarding Taylor. Starting with his drug addiction and later transitioning to a seemingly never-ending conflict with the police, Taylor is stuck in a cycle of both poor mistakes and bad luck. As the Gripped series continues, I am most excited to see the result of Taylor’s situation with the police. 


Now being adapted for TV by Emmy-winning producer Mark Blutman!

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.

“Invigorating, engaging and a must read. The characters in The Gripped Series diligently tackle the essence of forces that can limit greatness within.” – LaTonya Pinkard of Netflix’s Emmy-winning series ‘Last Chance U’

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.