Relatable Characters & Suspenseful Storylines Kept Me Gripped on “Smoke & Mirrors” – by Deirdre Mitchell

Written by Deirdre Mitchell, Villanova, PA

Meet Deirdre Mitchell

Deirdre 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 topics covered in Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors by Stacy A. Padula are very relevant to today’s teenagers, including substance abuse, relationship issues, and healthy ways to address these issues. As a teenager myself, I have witnessed or heard of these situations occurring. I would recommend this book to teenagers because it addresses issues many highschoolers face. One example is how some characters start experimenting with vaping. Vaping and the pressure to start are definitely common.

I believe parents should read Gripped Part 4 in order to help educate and support their teenagers. For example, one of the characters, Taylor Dunkin, who had a drug issue could have gotten help if he had talked to his parents. But, he felt that his parents would not understand so he decided not to. If parents read this book, they would understand the issues their kids are facing more clearly and would be able to support their kids better and open up conversations before it is too late.   

While reading, I enjoyed the setup of this story because I felt it kept me more invested in the story. (The setup of the story was through flashbacks.) When it was present day, I was interested in seeing how the characters’ lives got to that point. The plot-line that caused me to keep wanting more was the storyline at the bonfire. I could not believe that Jason was so irresponsible to keep dangerous drugs in his backpack for someone to take accidentally. Also, I was interested to see how his friends were going to react to Jeff taking the drugs Jason had in his backpack. In Gripped Part 5, there are two main storylines I am interested in uncovering. One of the storylines is the disappearance of Taylor Dunkin. Taylor was supposed to pick up his brother Jordan at the airport but after having to stop by his drug supplier’s meet-up spot, he failed to show up to pick up his brother. Another story line I am interested in is the relationship between Cathy and Marc. I am interested in seeing how their relationship began considering there is a three year age gap.  


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?

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.