Mackenzie Wells on Stacy Padula’s “Gripped” Characters

By Mackenzie Wells, Athens, GA

After reading Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story, Mackenzie was asked to share her honest opinions of the characters and how they have changed since the beginning of the series.


After reading Gripped 5, I think that Taylor is a really good kid who was dealt a bad hand and who let his circumstances get the best of him. I feel bad for him, because he did nothing wrong initially, but he has also let himself become a victim instead of taking advantage of the great opportunities he still had. At first, I thought Taylor was an entitled and slightly egotistical person who thought he could get away with anything, but now I see that this is not the case.


After reading Gripped 5, I really appreciate how Jordan takes things seriously without looking to others for approval or even consent. I love how he is motivated by his own achievements rather than accolades of others. Initially, I thought that he was going to be an attention seeker, because he grew up in his brother’s shadow. However, the carefree attitude he has about getting attention is very refreshing.


I am somewhat disappointed in Marc and his stubbornness after reading Gripped 5. I used to think that he was the best of his brothers, but now I see that it is just him who sees himself that way. He is very prideful and stuck on his high horse. I hope that he grows in humility and understanding in the future.


Missy’s propensity to be high is starting to bother me. She is not the type of person I would want to be friends with, but I can also see that she is kind beneath her carefree exterior. I just think that she is selfish in the way she always worries about her own concerns and doesn’t take into account how her actions affect others.


I always found it strange that this apparently quite intelligent character had a ditzy best friend and allowed herself to risk her future by living a little on the wild side. Now I have a slightly better impression of her as I don’t think she is ever really the one instigating reckless behavior. I respect the fact that she tends to think about the consequences of her actions more than some of her friends.


While I feel bad for Luke, it is also so clear that he can take control of the social situation he is in. I always thought he was someone who could stand up to peer pressure, but I can see that he is really struggling with people-pleasing. It is different to see him so unsure of himself, but I hope he regains his confidence and self-worth.


Now being adapted for TV!

Taylor Dunkin is missing.

The last message Jordan Dunkin receives from Taylor leads him to Taylor’s abandoned Jeep. Each of Taylor’s family members holds a piece of the puzzle, and as the Dunkins begin putting the details together, they are awakened to the possibility they may never see Taylor again.

No one can find Missy Kent.

Missy’s boyfriend Luke Davids last saw her dancing with their friends at a nightclub, but she hasn’t responded to anyone’s texts or calls for hours.

Everything is connected.

Taylor and Missy’s friends are dangerously close to learning the truth, but their ignorance might be the only thing keeping them safe. Every clue is leading them closer to peril.

The fifth book in the Gripped series moves through details at a thrilling pace. Secrets are revealed and lives are at stake. Taylor, Missy, their friends, and their families must figure out who they can trust before it’s too late.

About Mackenzie

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.

Articles by Mackenzie

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.