Debut Novel in YA Series Paints Realistic Picture of Teen Culture

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.

As a junior in high school, I recommend Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula to late middle-school and high school aged teens. I believe most kids within this age group struggle with how to handle failure and disappointment. Gripped Part 1 tells the story of Taylor and his struggle with depression due to a bad knee injury. Taylor makes the terrible mistake of turning to drugs as a way to deal with his problems. As a young adult, I relate to this story because I am very aware of the peer pressure and the access some high school students have to drugs. I have heard of kids attending parties and experimenting with different substances. Although I have never personally been in that situation myself, kids my age are tempted to follow others in order to fit in. Since they do not have any prior experience with drugs, they do not understand the negative consequences and impact of their actions. Gripped Part 1 teaches the reader the dangers of taking these substances, which I know I will never do. The message this book sends to readers is how easy it is to fall into substance abuse. I believe most people my age do not realize how addictive drugs and alcohol can be, so they think experimenting will not be harmful. However, Gripped Part 1 shows that people can get hooked on drugs even if you only take it only a couple of times. Another important message is how taking drugs can damage relationships for example how Taylor lost his family’s trust. 

My favorite part of the story was the start of Cathy and Jason’s relationship. Initially, Jason has a poor reputation with girls and is considered a “player”. Since he cared for Cathy, he talked with her to explain his reputation and changed for her, which I thought was a very mature thing for a middle school boy to do. I think the storyline that is most interesting is Cathy and Chantal. Cathy and Chantal’s relationship is interesting because Chantal was the popular twin, while Cathy was the twin who did not have that many friends. Somehow, the roles switch and we see that the two sisters stop speaking to one another. The plot I am most interested to uncover is the police case with Taylor. I’m most interested in this plot line because Marc was put in charge of giving Taylor the cell phone and I would like to see how Marc tells Taylor about the investigation. Also, I am interested to see how Taylor deals with the situation and if he gets out of trouble or not. 


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.