Coming of Age Story Teaches Teen Readers about Substance Abuse

Written by Deirdre Mitchell, Villanova, PA

Deirdre Mitchell is a junior in high school and attends the Academy of Notre Dame in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Deirdre enjoys dancing, traveling, and being with friends and family. One of Deirdre’s favorite places to travel was London. At school, Deirdre is a part of the dance company, environmental club, and campus ministry. Deirdre also runs her own non-profit organization, called Community Dress Shop, where she collects prom dresses and gives them to girls who would normally not be able to afford one.

The book, Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told, by Stacy Padula is a coming of age story that teaches readers about the consequences of substance abuse. One of the main characters, Taylor Dunkin, becomes addicted to drugs after suffering a major knee injury during a football game. Taylor’s drug abuse becomes more damaging when he starts dealing drugs to teenagers that he knows. Later in the story, Taylor finds himself in a police investigation that involves another drug dealer he knows. The police rely on Taylor’s brother, Marc, to inform Taylor about the investigation.

Another main character in the story is a young girl named Cathy Kagelli, who in the beginning, struggles with not having many friends and feels very alone. But, when her twin sister Chantal starts including her with her friends and invites her to parties, Cathy develops a friend group. One boy in particular, Jason Davids catches Cathy’s eye, and the two of them begin a romantic relationship. Cathy and her new friends start to hang out at their friend Chris Dunkin’s house, where Chris’ cousins, Taylor and Jordan, throw parties, causing them to be exposed to drugs and alcohol. 

This book is a quick and easy read for high school and middle school aged readers. It teaches lessons about the consequences and dangers of substance abuse and serves as a warning for teenagers who may start experimenting with different substances, to reconsider. I rate this book a 5/5 because it keeps the readers entertained and gives life lessons that will stick with the readers.  


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 season-ending injury sent him spiraling into a dark world of pain, depression, and addiction.

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 drugs on local college campuses. Montgomery’s hometown hero has fallen hard, and he’s taking a lot of people down with him.

Luke Davids has become the middleman between Taylor and teens in Montgomery who want to buy drugs. Freshmen Cathy Kagelli, Chris Dunkin, and Jason Davids are just a few of the students at Montgomery Lake High who have fallen victim to the benzos and opiates supplied by Taylor and Luke.  

When Taylor’s youngest brother Marc discovers that Taylor is behind the copious amount of pills circulating around his 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.

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.