Drug Abuse Grips Good Kids in Y.A. Novel ‘Smoke & Mirrors’

Written by Timmy Weiss, Weston, MA

Timmy Weiss is a senior at St. Sebastian’s high school.  He is a varsity tennis and varsity soccer player, as well as a part of MPA (men with positive attitudes), the newspaper named The Walrus, and the peer mentoring club. He enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, volunteering, and going to sports games. Soon he hopes to study communications in college. 

The book, Gripped Part 4: Smoke and Mirrors, by Stacy Padula is intriguing and beneficial for all.  Taylor Dunkin, hoping to gain a passage out from his involvement in a mafia drug dealing association, desperately thinks of solutions to persuade his boss to let him go. Sober for months now, Taylor is looking to get his life back on track, but his family and friends could easily be in serious danger if Taylor makes the wrong move in front of the mafia. 

Flashing back five months, Montgomery teens that are disliked and those that are idolized get caught up in drug abuse.  Jason Davids struggles in his relationships with his girlfriend and his best friend because of his addiction to drugs.  Cathy Kagelli, his girlfriend, gets caught in his downward spiral and struggles with substances she swore she’d never try.  Teens in Montgomery fall into behaviors they never would because of drugs.

The fact that not only “bad” kids but also “good” kids in Montgomery have fallen into the trap of drugs, shows how powerful peer pressure can be.  Innocent, good kids are somehow easily persuaded to engage in substance use.  Some characters learn from their mistakes, either realizing how damaging drugs are to their lives or being confronted by parents who discipline them.  Overall, I would highly recommend this book and I rate it a 5/5.  I thoroughly enjoyed the never-ending drama between the characters and learned extremely valuable lessons.


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?

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.