An Interview with Maya Daly on Y.A. Novel “Smoke & Mirrors”

Written by Maya Daly, Duxbury, Massachusetts

Maya is a senior at Duxbury High School, where she is a member of the Varsity Rowing Team. In school, she is a part of the yearbook club, Best Buddies club, and Habitat for Humanity. She enjoys studying English and history, and plans to major in one of those subjects in college. 

After reading Stacy Padula’s novel, Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors, Maya was asked to give her opinion as a teen reader on the plot, characters, and messages in the story. Her interview is below…

  1. Who would you recommend this book to and why?

I would recommend this book to all teens. This book takes a unique look into the lives of teenagers, showing the perspective of drugs and alcohol abuse from the lense of teens who have found themselves “gripped” by these substances. Seeing the progression of these teens as they fall deeper into the hole of drug abuse throughout the series shows how vulnerable everyone is to drugs, no matter who they are. With many characters, all on different journeys, each character is relatable for different reasons, and there is someone for everyone to relate to. 

  1. Why do you feel the topics covered in the book are relevant for teenagers?

The topics discussed in this book are highly relevant for teenagers to be reading. With the continued discussion of alcohol and drug addiction, The “Gripped” series shows a realistic portrayal of teens and the trouble that they can easily get themselves into. The book clearly shows that drug addiction is a slippery slope, and carelessly trying something can easily turn into addiction. Reading this series puts the real danger of drug addiction into perspective, and shows that it can impact anyone, and no one is “safe” from it. 

  1. Why should parents read this book?

Parents should read this book because of the main plotline. In many of the situations in this book, the parents seem to be left in the dark with the dangerous activities their children are involving themselves in. Reading this book gives parents a “inside look” into what teens may be getting themselves into, and how they can help. For example, in this book, when Alyssa’s parents come down hard on her after they hear about the drugs and alcohol distributed at a party, giving her frequent drug tests, and other parents follow suit, none of the children respond well to this. In fact, it just pushes them farther into secrecy. For parents, reading this book shows how to go about helping their children and knowing the signs of possible drug or alcohol abuse. 

  1. At this point in the story, what are you most curious to uncover in Gripped 5?

In Gripped 5, I am looking forward to seeing more about Jordan and Taylor. So far, while both of their stories have been alluded to, I feel that many details still remain unknown, and I am curious to see a closer view. I think that the story with Taylor’s drug addiction and possible run in with the police and mafia members will be shown more in the next book, and I am very interested in hearing more about it. 

  1. What did you like best about this book/what kept you wanting to turn the page?

In this book, one of the things I found to be the most interesting was seeing the various teen dynamics, and the drama that came due to these. With Cathy and Jason, one of the main couples in the book, we see Jason’s drug abuse spiral out of control, sending Cathy down into a bad place with it. Seeing the way that this couple has become intertwined to the point where they both can have either such a positive or negative impact on one another speaks highly to the way that drugs can create such a toxic situation. Overall, seeing the dynamics and the continued drama throughout the book made for a very engaging storyline, making this book hard to put down. 

  1. What did you like about the writing style/setup of the story?

One of the things that I really liked about this book was the way that the storylines continued on throughout chapters. I felt that the way that the chapters were broken up made the story even more engaging and interesting, and kept me wanting to read more and more. Also, the way that in the beginning the story gives us a glimpse into the present time, showing us snippets of Taylor’s current situation gives a good level of foreshadowing to keep readers engaged and wanting to know more about everything that happened in the months leading up to the present day.


Now being adapted for TV by Emmy-winning producer Mark Blutman!

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?


“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 (Ms. P) from Netflix’s Emmy Winning Docuseries “Last Chance U”

“Gripped is perfect for Middle School and High School students, as well as their parents. It is an educational, yet entertaining narrative that highlights the growing problem of addiction in the U.S and just how easy it is for harmless fun to take a dark turn, regardless of who you are or where you come from.” – Elizabeth Harvey, Emerson College

“I recommend Gripped to young adults in middle school and high school because this book addresses topics such as relationships, drugs, and alcohol that most books recommended for this age group don’t go into enough detail about. With the opioid epidemic at an all time high, it is important that teens educate themselves on the dangers that drugs bring, and this book does a great job at providing an in depth look on the consequences of getting involved in dangerous, illegal substances. I would also recommend this book to parents of teens so they can get a better understanding of how to deal with issues regarding addiction, or simply just issues regarding their children’s relationships. By reading about this story of young adults who got caught up in drugs, parents and teens will be better informed and will hopefully be more comfortable to have open conversations about the topic.” – Sophia Coggeshall, University of Notre Dame

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.