Q&A with Megan Farinacci on Stacy Padula’s ‘Gripped’ Characters

Written by Megan Farinacci, Medfield, MA

After reading Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors, Megan Farinacci, a senior at Newton Country Day School, was asked to share how her opinion of certain main characters has changed throughout the series.

Jordan Dunkin

I have come to realize that Jordan is very trustworthy and cares a lot about those around him. Gripped 4 shows his true self, whereas I feel like in previous books we only knew him as Marc’s enemy and a date rapist. Overtime, I have come to realize that Marc and Jordan are more similar than they think; they both want to help their loved ones get clean and would do anything for their families. 

Taylor Dunkin

Gripped 4 uncovers more on Taylor’s mental health. I no longer see a villain; I see a broken and lost college student who is trying to navigate his way out of his drug addictions. He cares more about his family than himself and wants to do anything to make them proud of him again.

Jason Davids

Gripped 4 revealed Jason’s ugly side. I used to give Jason the benefit of the doubt for how caring he was towards his family and friends, but everything seems to be falling apart with him. He only cares about drugs and doesn’t realize how bad of an addiction he has. He is harming his relationship with Cathy because of it.

Luke Davids

Throughout Gripped 4, Luke is so worried about himself and his drug business. He is worried that his girlfriend is using him for drugs, and he has fallen into the wrong crowd. He himself doesn’t seem to be abusing drugs, which frustrates me because he is causing so many other characters to abuse drugs. 

Cathy Kagelli

In Gripped 4, Cathy made a plethora of bad decisions to make those around her happy. I feel bad for her. I see how lost she is in her relationship with Jason. She is trying so hard to ween Jason off of drugs but ends up harming herself in the long run.


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?

Emmy-winning producer Mark Blutman Developing TV Adaptation of Stacy Padula’s ‘Gripped’ Book Series


“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

“Stacy Padula’s masterful control of a bifurcated storyline keeps the reader intrigued in two chronologies of events. The characters grow richer with each passing novel, as the depth of relationships between them approaches reality.” – Mackenzie Wells, University of Georgia

“This book is perfect for teens and their parents as it offers unique perspectives on complex issues that teens face today. Teens and parents can learn from this book as it offers insight into the difficulties one may find navigating through high school or parenting a teen through high school. Overall, Gripped 4 was a fascinating read that leaves so much to be answered in Gripped 5. I would give this book a 10/10 and would encourage all teens and their parents to pick up this book along with the entire Gripped series.” Michael Farinacci, University of Notre Dame

“This novel is an engaging and meaningful read, ideal for high school freshmen, while also being very applicable to adults wanting to know more about teenage drug abuse. Gripped Part 4 displays the many drawbacks of taking drugs, including losing friends, girlfriends, and your thoughts on your own life. As a result, Padula effectively shows the extreme efforts needed to begin overcoming an addiction in order to begin a new life; this is shown to be very hard to complete. This would hopefully influence all young adults to avoid using drugs in order to prevent going through this troublesome process, and to avoid losing the trust and relationships with loved ones and friends.” – Kyle Banker, University of Miami

About Megan Farinacci

Megan is a senior at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. She is a member of the Varsity Cross Country and Varsity Lacrosse teams at NCDS. She also plays club lacrosse for Mass Elite. She is involved in her school’s health science, yearbook, and running clubs. She has a passion for art and is currently studying 2D design. Megan also enjoys traveling. Over the summer, she traveled to Guatemala with School the World where she helped build a school for a community in need. Her favorite subjects are science and English. She plans to study science or nursing in college. 

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.