Y.A. Novel Prepares High School Freshmen and Parents for Social Pressures

Written by Kyle Banker, University of Miami

The usage of drugs are more prevalent than ever, mostly in high schools and colleges. While many teenagers may feel as if they will be able to avoid drugs, most are influenced to take a substance at some point in high school or college to enhance their social or academic life. At some points, these teenagers decide to take the drug once to have a short, positive effect on their life. However, these substances clearly have the power to strip the lives of many good people, such as Taylor Dunkin in Stacy Padula’s “Gripped” book series. Overall, teenagers should not look at substances lightly, as while many see drugs as harmless and easy to stay away from, addiction still remains at a very high rate, with about 2.5 million American young adults becoming victims of it.

In light of this, I would like to recommend Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors by Stacy Padula to high school freshmen, as this novel is targeted towards the exposure of substances to young teenagers. In addition, with the timing of the novel, substance abuse has increased due to quarantine, as many high school students use these medicines to cope with the situation. Although the book does not take place in current society, high school freshmen will witness the distress and consequences that drugs can put on a person, no matter who they were before they began taking the pills. It is especially important to frontload and emphasize this message due to the accessibility and usage of substances in high school. Without these incoming high schoolers understanding the impact of benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and other types of substances, they could be swayed the wrong direction to try for “the experience,” and eventually become at risk of addiction.

I would also recommend Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors to parents who have children in high school, as it is significant to see the emerging problem from the child’s point of view. Considering that this problem is vastly different than it was a few years ago, mainly due to the rise of vaping, Gripped Part 4 showcases many character transformations from substances. If adults read this novel thoroughly and analyze each character’s development, they can connect the stories of characters such as Cathy and Jason to their own children or their friends to see if they are taking or abusing substances. At that point, the parent can make a wise and calculated decision in order to prevent their child from becoming further exposed to substances or possibly develop a drug addiction.

After spending her first month of high school grounded, Cathy Kagelli is finally allowed to socialize and uncover what her boyfriend, Jason Davids, has been up to without her. When Cathy realizes Jason has been experimenting with a variety of drugs, she devises a plan to save him from himself… but she just may lose herself in the process.

Meanwhile Taylor Dunkin finds himself playing a game with even higher stakes because his life, his reputation, and the safety of everyone he loves are all on the line. Taylor’s two younger brothers, Jordan and Marc, have been at odds for years, but they are brought together to decipher the mysterious clues Taylor is leaving regarding his whereabouts. As secrets are revealed, the Dunkin boys’ relationships will be changed forever. In Taylor’s weakest moment, he made a deal with the devil, and now there is a reckoning. But who will pay the price?


Kyle is a junior at University of Miami. He graduated in 2019 from Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He has been an intern for us since 2018. His favorite subjects include Biology, English, and Entrepreneurship. Some of his hobbies are playing soccer and hockey, volunteering, and being with friends and family. Kyle is studying Biological Sciences, while also pursuing his passions for writing and business.

Other Articles by Kyle:

Fiction Book Helps Teens Prepare for High School

Teen Novel about Addiction Provides Hope for Redemption and Recovery

Teen Novel Educates Kids About the Perils of Substance Abuse

Why Teens Want to Read The Right Person

A Must-Read Novel For All High School Students

Teen Book Series Educates Readers about Drug Abuse in a New Way

Why You Should Read the #1 New Release “Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told”

Kyle Banker on The “Gripped” Characters

A Teen’s Review of Gripped Part 1

Looking Ahead to Gripped Part 2 with Kyle Banker

What Should Readers Expect from Gripped Part 2 (To Be Released Later This Year)

May’s Q&A with Kyle Banker of Beaver Country Day School

Kyle Banker Reviews “The Right Person” by Stacy A. Padula – A Young Adult Novel

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.