The ‘Gripped’ Characters: Q&A with Maya Daly on ‘Taylor’s Story’

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 5: Taylor’s Story, Maya was asked to give her opinion as a teen reader on the plot, characters, and messages in the story. Her interview is below…

In Gripped Part 6, what do you hope happens to…

  1.  Taylor

As the story left off, Taylor seems to be in a great amount of trouble. In the upcoming story, I hope that he will be able to work together with the police department in taking down the gang that he once had become involved with for drugs. More so, I hope that he will be able to put himself into a better place, and get his life back on track to the trajectory it once seemed to be going in. 

  1. Cathy & Chantal

After seeing these two sisters somewhat rekindle their relationship in this book, I hope that in the future they will be able to come back to the close relationship they once had. Though this may be difficult due to the different paths they took while they were not speaking, I think that this relationship is very meaningful to both characters, and reconnecting will benefit them both in the long run. 

  1. Cathy & Jason

I think that at this time, more than anything, this couple needs to communicate. Though they had ended things off in kind of a rough spot, I think that originally, the two were good for each other, and they understood each other very well.  I hope that in the future, they talk things through and then can decide whether or not it is best for them to reunite. 

  1. Luke & Missy

I think that in order for Luke to move forward, he and Missy either need to change the dynamic of their relationship, or end things off. It seems that while they both care for one another, their relationship is not always healthy, and that they should either try to work through their issues, or end it for both of their benefits. 

How have your opinions of the characters evolved overtime?

  1. Taylor

Throughout the series, we have known that Taylor had put himself into a bad situation with drugs, and had been distancing himself from his family ever since. At first, this made me judge him as being selfish and irresponsible. However, now I see Taylor as being someone who used drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain of having his identity and goals as a college athlete stripped away due to an injury. Seeing more of Taylor’s story in this book has made me empathize with his situation much more, despite some of his earlier actions. 

  1. Jordan

With Jordan as well, I believe that I had originally misjudged him. At first, he came off to me as careless, he seemed to just be interested in partying and having fun. However, now I see that he is much more dedicated and well rounded than I had once believed. It seems that due to Jordan’s “care free” attitude he portrays, he gets labeled incorrectly, and his thoughtfulness and loyalty gets overlooked. 

  1. Marc

While I do feel that Marc has admirable traits such as sticking to his beliefs and learning from his brother’s mistakes, I do feel that he has let his own preconceived notions get in the way of his better judgment. He seems to be so caught up in his view of his older brother, Jordan, and the story that he believes about him and Michelle that he won’t change his mind for anything, which seems to have hindered his character development. 

  1. Missy

Missy seems to fit in with the rest of her group in the sense that she enjoys having fun and can be a bit careless. Overall, I see Missy as being a kind character, who sometimes lets her environment get the best of her, leading to her becoming rather involved with drugs and partying.

  1. Luke

At first, seeing Luke, I thought of him as being irresponsible and a bad influence on his younger brother, Jason and his friends. However, after learning more about how Luke truly does not even really use drugs, and mainly only deals to help those closest to him, my view on him has changed. Now he seems to be one of the more caring characters, who has just gotten caught up in the wrong crowd. 

  1. Laurelle

Falling into the same group as Luke and Missy, Laurelle inevitably is seen becoming involved with the same partying that we see with the others. However, it seems that she has been a little bit more practical with not becoming too heavily involved with any of these drugs, and therefore does not seem to be on the same possibly dangerous path as some of the others.


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

Now being adapted for TV!

Taylor Dunkin is missing.

The last message Jordan Dunkin receives from Taylor leads him to Taylor’s abandoned Jeep. Each of Taylor’s family members holds a piece of the puzzle, and as the Dunkins begin putting the details together, they are awakened to the possibility they may never see Taylor again.

No one can find Missy Kent.

Missy’s boyfriend Luke Davids last saw her dancing with their friends at a nightclub, but she hasn’t responded to anyone’s texts or calls for hours.

Everything is connected.

Taylor and Missy’s friends are dangerously close to learning the truth, but their ignorance might be the only thing keeping them safe. Every clue is leading them closer to peril.

The fifth book in the Gripped series moves through details at a thrilling pace. Secrets are revealed and lives are at stake. Taylor, Missy, their friends, and their families must figure out who they can trust before it’s too late.

Taylor’s Story won the Silver Award in the 2022 Readers’ Choice Book Awards for Best Teen Book.


“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.