Chris Dunkin’s Journey Teaches Valuable Lessons about Recovery

Written by Sarah Parrish, Dover, Massachusetts

Sarah is a senior at Dover-Sherborn High School where she is captain of the Alpine Ski Team and the Track and Field Team. She is also a member of her school’s Peer Helping Club and Community Service club. Throughout the summer, Sarah works as a counselor at a local summer camp and also as a server at the Chatham Filling station. With a passion for leadership and athletics, she enjoys ski instructing at Burke Mountain and coaching field hockey for Dover-Sherborn Youth Field Hockey. She also enjoys her participation in the Senior High Youth Group at Pilgrim Church where she volunteers around her community. In her freetime, she enjoys boating, skiing, running and traveling. 


Through Chris Dunkin’s journey in the Gripped book series by Stacy Padula, readers can learn about how difficult recovery is and how surrounding yourself with the right people can be very beneficial.

Since Chris’s hospital experience in Gripped #2, he has been trying his best to stay away from drugs and surround himself with people that aid his recovery. However, when he was surrounded by drugs and alcohol at a party, it was easy for him to relapse and spiral down a bad path after he took acid with Jason. For this reason, readers can understand how difficult recovery can be and how small triggers can cause people to relapse. 

I think that Chris’s storyline was one of the most interesting in Gripped #3 because we saw how well he was doing, staying clean from drugs and building a healthy relationship with Courtney, which then went to ruins in one night. Courtney intrigues me a lot because we don’t know much about her yet. I think it is interesting that her new friends suspect she is starting to wear makeup and hangout with them for popularity. I also find it interesting that she ditched her old friends to join this new circle. I wonder if she will stay friends with them in the future and if she will ultimately choose Bryan or Chris.

To me, it was very sad when Chris shut Jason out of his life, and I find it interesting that Chris and Jason create a parallel to what Cathy went through with Chantal. Jason and Chris had been best friends for ten years prior to their falling out, and it seemed to Jason like Chris was blaming him for his own blunder. Meanwhile, Chris believed he was doing what he needed to do to get sober. It was interesting to see both sides, but heartbreaking to watch drugs abuse tear apart two very loyal friends. I also thought that Cathy and Chantal’s storyline was very interesting because it was suspenseful, wondering how Chantal ended up surrounded by Cathy’s friends after Jason’s party was raided by police. 

I look forward to seeing where Chris’s journey to sobriety takes him in Gripped #4. Now that he has broken away from anyone he perceives could be a bad influence on him, I wonder if he will find the strength he needs to lead the sober life he desires.

Synopsis

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

After a near-death experience, Chris Dunkin begins surrounding himself with positive influences and putting his efforts towards living a clean lifestyle. However, the night before school starts, his best friend Jason convinces him to host a party that shows Chris more about himself than he actually wants to know.

Meanwhile, Marc Dunkin has received word from a detective that his oldest brother Taylor is a person of interest in a highly confidential case headed by the Boston Police Department. They know Taylor’s clean; they know he wants out of the game; and they want to help make that happen. However, their “help” will come at a cost-one that may put Taylor and his entire family in grave danger. Taylor is trying to get his life back in order after an opiate addiction wreaked havoc on his once promising athletic future. Getting clean was a difficult feat, but breaking free from the Bilotti crime ring will present an even greater challenge.

Gripped 3: The Fallout – Readers Want More with Each Page They Turn

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.


Gripped Part 3: The Fallout written by Stacy Padula is the third of a five book series about a group of teenage, high school students and their experiences with substance abuse.

Gripped Part 3: The Fallout describes dramatic events which happen due to some of the bad choices made by some of the main characters. For instance, Chris Dunkin breaks his sobriety streak when his close friend, Jason, convinces him to take acid at a party. Chris regrets his actions and in an effort to stay on the right path he decides to permanently cut Jason out of his life.

In addition, Cathy Kagelli, Jason’s girlfriend, also has a substance problem. Due to her anxiety, she becomes addicted to Xanax. One night before attending a party she secretly takes some Xanax. Unaware of Cathy’s bad decision, Jason encourages her to drink that night. She gets extremely drunk and ends up having sex with Jason. This is devastating for Cathy because she wanted to save herself for marriage. 

Gripped Part 3: The Fallout teaches its readers how drugs can cause people to make very bad and sometimes dangerous decisions that can have negative and irreversible outcomes for their future and for others whom they love. Gripped Part 3: The Fallout teaches readers these lessons while also keeping people entertained. I rate this book a 5/5 because it teaches readers valuable lessons and makes readers want more with each page they turn. 

Synopsis

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

After a near-death experience, Chris Dunkin begins surrounding himself with positive influences and putting his efforts towards living a clean lifestyle. However, the night before school starts, his best friend Jason convinces him to host a party that shows Chris more about himself than he actually wants to know.

Meanwhile, Marc Dunkin has received word from a detective that his oldest brother Taylor is a person of interest in a highly confidential case headed by the Boston Police Department. They know Taylor’s clean; they know he wants out of the game; and they want to help make that happen. However, their “help” will come at a cost-one that may put Taylor and his entire family in grave danger. Taylor is trying to get his life back in order after an opiate addiction wreaked havoc on his once promising athletic future. Getting clean was a difficult feat, but breaking free from the Bilotti crime ring will present an even greater challenge.

Taylor’s Story: an exhilarating page-turner with valuable lessons for all

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 5: Taylor’s Story, by Stacy Padula is an exhilarating, page-turner with valuable lessons for all.  Taylor Dunkin does everything in his power to escape from a mafia drug dealing association.  Unfortunately for him the tension between the police and his boss’s crime ring is rising and the blame needs to be put on someone.  A great kid, who is sober now for 6 months, Taylor is the perfect candidate to blame.  Him, his friends, and his family could be in severe danger.  Taylor works through many dilemmas and without the help of his brother Marc’s friends, the FBI, and people involved in the drug dealing business, he could easily be killed.  Now, more than ever, Taylor regrets the decisions he’s made in his past five years.

Taylor and other kids from Montgomery start to realize how bad the effects of using drugs can be.  What can start out as just being a way to have fun can turn into supplying drugs for younger kids, getting a serious addiction, and ruining the life that you had.  Taylor and other characters start to show their strength in standing up for themselves and others when it comes to drugs, showing us the mature and committed side of Taylor’s personality.  Characters also learn the importance of trusting in God’s plan for you when things are not working out.  Overall, I would rate this book a 5/5.  I was deeply invested in the layers of drama between characters.  Countless times some characters knew something that others didn’t, building serious tension and intensifying the reader’s experience.

Synopsis

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.

My Hopes for the ‘Gripped’ Series Characters

Written by Nasin Groshek, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Nasin is a senior at Rising Tide Charter Public School, a college preparatory regional high school located in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  He enjoys travel, boating, photography, nature, volunteer work, and spending time with family and friends.  Nasin is a member of both the Community Action and Eco Clubs at Rising Tide.  He is also the founder of the Business Club at Rising Tide and looks forward to studying business in college.


After reading Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story, Nasin Groshek was asked a series of questions about the main characters…


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

  1. Taylor

I hope that Taylor helps to bring the Bilotti crime family down and can resume his life without living in fear. I also hope that Taylor can continue his college career and return to the football field.

  1. Cathy & Chantal

I hope that Cathy and Chantal continue to repair their relationship. You would think Cathy would no longer feel dead inside if this relationship with her twin sister was restored.

  1. Cathy & Jason

I still think Cathy should be in a relationship with Marc. I would be concerned that a relationship between Cathy and Jason could spin out of control resulting in drug addiction for either Cathy or Jason. I understand that Marc was partly trying to fix the damage caused by both Taylor and Luke to Cathy and that Marc will be off to college soon.

  1. Luke & Missy

I do not think that Luke and Missy should be together. Luke is a people pleaser, and Missy likes to party. Luke is at the point where he no longer wants to use drugs or distribute drugs to his friends. Luke now understands that he is not helping his friends by supplying drugs.

  1. Jordan & Marc

At one point while reading the series, Marc Dunkin was one of my favorite characters. But unfortunately, Marc is no longer a favorite character considering his hate for his brother Jordan. In his video to the family, Taylor even tells Marc not to let his anger keep him from working things out with Jordan. My favorite character now is Jordan. Jordan was introduced to the reader as the black sheep of the Dunkin family and as a person known for taking nothing seriously in high school. Even Jordan’s father now realizes what a wonderful young man Jordan has become since high school. 

How has your opinion of the characters evolved overtime?

  1. Taylor

My opinion of Taylor has not changed. I am still rooting for Taylor to put his life back together and to remove himself from the horrible predicament he finds himself in with the FBI, the Boston police department, and the Bilotti crime family.

  1. Jordan

Jordan was introduced to the reader as the black sheep of the Dunkin family and as a person known for taking nothing seriously in high school. I think Jordan has matured a lot since high school and is very serious about his future. Even Jordan’s father now realizes what a wonderful young man Jordan has become since high school.

  1. Marc

At one point while reading the series, Marc Dunkin was one of my favorite characters. Marc now is no longer a favorite character considering his hate for his brother Jordan. Taylor in his video to the family tells Marc not to let his anger keep him from working things out with Jordan.

  1. Missy

Missy is portrayed as a partier and possibly even a person who uses Luke for his drug connections and money. Unfortunately, my opinion of Missy has not evolved over time.

  1. Luke

At specific points in the series, Luke frustrated me because he supplied drugs and alcohol without acknowledging the negative consequences to his friends and classmates. However, Luke now realizes the damage he has done by providing classmates and friends with drugs and alcohol. As a result, my opinion of Luke has evolved positively.


Synopsis

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

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.

Reviews

“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

Here’s Why ‘Gripped’ Should be Read in High Schools Across America

| Written by Julia Trenholm, Plymouth, Massachusetts |

Julia Trenholm is from Plymouth, Massachusetts where she attends Plymouth North High School. Her favorite subjects include marketing and science. Some of her hobbies include cheerleading and singing in the Northern Lights A cappella group. Julia would like to study communications in college.


As a senior in high school, I believe that Gripped Part 2: Blindsided by Stacy Padula is a great way to educate young adults to make thoughtful decisions through common teenage social situations. This includes drug and alcohol abuse, a topic that many school systems seem to want to avoid addressing.

Often school administrators and parents are worried about these scenarios happening to their own kids and will try to shelter them from being exposed to these situations in books. Instead of just telling them “drugs are bad for you,” educators and parents need to encourage students to properly educate themselves on the topic by allowing them to read this great book series. Through Gripped, kids will gain an understanding of how drugs are more powerful than they may think.

The truth is, kids will learn so many significant lessons from characters such as Chris Dunkin, Cathy Kagelli, Jason Davids, and Taylor Dunkin. Some examples include how drugs and substances affect your relationships with others, the lead up to an addiction, and how it can completely take over your personality. Mental health, honesty in relationships, and the importance of surrounding yourself with good friends who truly care about you are all themes in Blindsided. This book, and the entire Gripped series, will help kids navigate through society today and not be afraid to reach out for help or have honest conversations with the ones they trust and love. After reading this book, kids will understand the many causes and decisions that lead up to an addiction. It is a cautionary and engaging tale that teens will relate to and enjoy from cover to cover. It is my hope schools will implement this series in some way so more kids will learn the valuable lessons shown through the compelling characters and suspenseful plot line.

Synopsis

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

Fourteen-year-old Chris Dunkin is known for being the life of the party and everyone’s favorite friend. Despite his amicable nature, he carries around deep-seated pain from his childhood that he frequently numbs with alcohol and drugs.

After hosting a party, Chris awakes with a strange vibe running through his body and no recollection of the previous night. When he learns the horrifying truth of what his night entailed, the trajectory of his life is changed forever.

Gripped: a 5-star Read for Teens

| Written by Laurie O’Sullivan, Dover, Massachusetts |

Laurie O’Sullivan is a 17 year old senior at Dover Sherborn High School where she likes to be involved with sports and extracurriculars. She is part of the National Honor Society and tutors high schoolers who want extra help in biology. She runs on the track team, leads a service club, is part of a women’s group, and is involved with an environmental club. In her free time, she likes to read, listen to music, and play the piano. Her love for spending time with kids is shown through her summer job as a camp counselor and her regular babysitting hours. She hopes to study communications in college and travel a lot in the future!


5 Stars

Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told, by Stacy A. Padula, is a perfect quick-read for teenagers and young adults. This book follows the story of students at Montgomery Lake High School as they navigate the drug deals that begin to run rampant throughout their community. Each character has their own response and role in the situation. Relationships form and break as tensions rise in Montgomery, and this book captures it all perfectly.

As a teenager myself, this book sheds light on things that are more common in high schools all across the country, and world, than you may think. No matter who you are, you are guaranteed to find a character that you relate to, and you will become deeply invested in each of their lives. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a perfect blend of intensity and drama, and is open to reading about the harsh reality of our world today through the perspective of those going through it. 

Synopsis

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.

Complex Relationships Make “The Fallout” a Y.A. Page-turner

Written by Sarah Parrish, Dover, Massachusetts

Sarah is a senior at Dover-Sherborn High School where she is captain of the Alpine Ski Team and the Track and Field Team. She is also a member of her school’s Peer Helping Club and Community Service club. Throughout the summer, Sarah works as a counselor at a local summer camp and also as a server at the Chatham Filling station. With a passion for leadership and athletics, she enjoys ski instructing at Burke Mountain and coaching field hockey for Dover-Sherborn Youth Field Hockey. She also enjoys her participation in the Senior High Youth Group at Pilgrim Church where she volunteers around her community. In her freetime, she enjoys boating, skiing, running and traveling. 


Gripped Part 3: The Fallout by Stacy Padula, is a page turner that will allow teens and adults to understand the harmful effects of drug addiction. The story follows many different high school relationships and how drug addiction can ruin relationships of all types. The readers learn more about Taylor Dunkin’s struggle to get back on the football field and transfer to a school where he will excel academically and athletically. Meanwhile, Chris and Jason, two high school friends, decide to experiment with drugs the night before the first day of high school while sneaking out. Chris’s prior experiences with drugs makes this a problem for him, his new, and his old relationships. 

Meanwhile, we learn that Cathy works to repair her relationship with her sister and lets her back into her life. However, this was a result of Cathy’s trip to the police station with Chantal’s ex-boyfriend’s new girl, Alyssa. However, beforehand they dramatically and unexpectedly broke up. This tangled web of connections leaves readers to wonder where these relationships will end up in the future and how drugs will play a part to damage them. I’m excited to read Gripped Part 4 to find out!

Synopsis

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

After a near-death experience, Chris Dunkin begins surrounding himself with positive influences and putting his efforts towards living a clean lifestyle. However, the night before school starts, his best friend Jason convinces him to host a party that shows Chris more about himself than he actually wants to know.

Meanwhile, Marc Dunkin has received word from a detective that his oldest brother Taylor is a person of interest in a highly confidential case headed by the Boston Police Department. They know Taylor’s clean; they know he wants out of the game; and they want to help make that happen. However, their “help” will come at a cost-one that may put Taylor and his entire family in grave danger. Taylor is trying to get his life back in order after an opiate addiction wreaked havoc on his once promising athletic future. Getting clean was a difficult feat, but breaking free from the Bilotti crime ring will present an even greater challenge.

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.

Synopsis

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.

Reviews

“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

“Taylor’s Story” Must Be Told

Written by Nasin Groshek, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Nasin is a senior at Rising Tide Charter Public School, a college preparatory regional high school located in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  He enjoys travel, boating, photography, nature, volunteer work, and spending time with family and friends.  Nasin is a member of both the Community Action and Eco Clubs at Rising Tide.  He is also the founder of the Business Club at Rising Tide and looks forward to studying business in college.


I recommend that all middle school and high school students read Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story. Young adults can learn that bad choices in life such as substance abuse can adversely affect their family and friends including even their safety.

This book dives into Taylor’s trials and tribulations of becoming addicted to painkillers and becoming a drug dealer. This book is fast-paced compelling story about the mob, the FBI, and the Boston police. I am still rooting for Taylor!

Synopsis

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

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.

Reviews

“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

The ‘Gripped’ Characters: Q&A with Timmy Weiss on ‘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. 


After reading Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors by Stacy Padula, Timmy was asked to share his thoughts on the characters’ arcs. His responses are below.

Luke
My opinions on Luke have completely changed after this book.  I used to think Luke was just a guy giving drugs to everyone and kinda a bad boy, but I’ve learned in this book how nice of a person he is.  In the end of the book Michelle even says he is the nicest Davids boy.

Jordan
Another character my opinions have changed for.  He seems like an extremely caring and thoughtful person.  Caring for Julie, Marc, Taylor, Michelle and so on.  Jordan has matured at his time at Notre Dame and is becoming a great role model.

Taylor
It’s great to see that Taylor has been sober for awhile now.  People who see him say he looks better and he really is trying to get out of the drug business.  His morals seem to be coming back.

Jason
Jason in this book was kinda all over the place.  I didn’t appreciate how he kept giving drugs to Cathy to “help” her.  It was hard to tell if he wanted to help her or if he was being selfish by making her take drugs.  She would have a much better time with him with the drugs and that’s all Jason wants to do sometimes.

Cathy
Cathy made some weird decisions in this book, which either calls for a change in her character or the situation being severely off.  She was sober at times and would still take Jason’s offer to do drugs that she has never tried before just because her boyfriend said it would make her feel better.  Cathy is much smarter than that (at least I thought)  so I was very surprised by her behavior in this book.

Synopsis

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?

The Gripped Characters: Q&A with Bella Gill on “Blindsided”

Written by Bella Gill, Pembroke, Massachusetts

Bella is a junior at Pembroke High School in Pembroke, Massachusetts.  She is a midfielder for the South Shore Select 2006 Girls Academy Soccer Team and is headed to the National Finals in St. Louis this summer.  She is also a midfielder for the Pembroke High School Girls Varsity soccer team.  Additionally, Bella is the vice-president of her class, a member of the Pembroke High School Yearbook staff and assistant coaches a U10 girls soccer team. Bella enjoys traveling with her family and friends, skiing, reading, babysitting, and working in the local office of a gastroenterologist. Bella’s favorite subjects include English, History, and Model UN.  She hopes to study abroad in Europe in college. 


After reading Gripped Part 2: Blindsided by Stacy Padula, Bella was asked to share her opinion of the main characters.

  1. How has your opinion of Taylor changed from the beginning of the series until the end of book 2?

My opinion of Taylor has changed greatly from the beginning of the series to the end of book 2. I have grown a liking for Taylor because I believe he is doing his best to get his life back on track and make his family proud. Although he has been involved with dealing and using drugs, I believe that Taylor is finally on the way to becoming sober and possibly accomplishing his dream of getting back out on the football field. 

  1. How has your opinion of Chris changed since the beginning of the series?

As the series has gone on, my opinion of Chris has changed multiple times. At the start I thought of him as a fun, outgoing friend to the twins, Jon, Jason, and the rest of their friends. Soon after that, I think Chris became too addicted to drugs and partying so he went down a very dark path, which evidently led to his visit in the hospital and breakup with Lisa. Following this scary incident, I began to like Chris more because I was happy with how he was truly trying to stay sober and keep people out of his life who weren’t going to help him reach his goal. 

  1. After reading books 1 & 2, are you rooting for Cathy to end up with Jason or Marc? 

After finishing the first two books in the Gripped Series by Stacy Padula, I have come to support the relationship between Marc and Cathy over Cathy and Jason. I prefer this couple because I feel as if Jason fails to bring out the best in Cathy’s personality, and I believe Marc can. Secondly, I believe Marc does his best to protect Cathy from harmful substances and alcohol, meanwhile Jason encouraged Cathy to take pills for her anxiety, and continued to experiment with drugs himself. I personally maintain the opinion that Cathy is happier and feels safe around Marc, and when she is with Jason she becomes apathetic and loses her spark.

  1. What are your honest thoughts on Chris and Lisa’s relationship? 

I believe that Chris and Lisa tend to have an unstable and unhealthy relationship. I feel as if they are toxic, and due to Chris’ bad decision making it puts the both of them in constant danger. I also believe Lisa put too much effort into trying to make Chris happy, when he has a serious drug abuse problem and needs to get himself sober.

  1. Who are your two favorite characters so far in the series and why?

My two favorite characters in the series so far are Courtney and Marc. These two people are my personal favorites due to their ability to restrain from the bad activity their friends participate in. I love how they can make their own decisions but also be able to hangout with their friends and be caring and loving people. I enjoy how Courtney understands that Chris is struggling and reaches out to him to be a safe, sober friend, and I also am very fond of how Marc does his best to protect his friends from these harmful substances.

Synopsis

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

Fourteen-year-old Chris Dunkin is known for being the life of the party and everyone’s favorite friend. Despite his amicable nature, he carries around deep-seated pain from his childhood that he frequently numbs with alcohol and drugs.

After hosting a party, Chris awakes with a strange vibe running through his body and no recollection of the previous night. When he learns the horrifying truth of what his night entailed, the trajectory of his life is changed forever.

Gripped 2: Blindsided – an Accurate Representation of Teen Life

| Written by Julia Trenholm, Plymouth, Massachusetts |

Julia Trenholm is from Plymouth, Massachusetts where she attends Plymouth North High School. Her favorite subjects include marketing and science. Some of her hobbies include cheerleading and singing in the Northern Lights A cappella group. Julia would like to study communications in college.


For any age, Gripped Part 2: Blindsided by Stacy Padula is a great way to educate young adults and adults to make thoughtful decisions. The Gripped Series captures the most common teen social situations. This includes alcohol, drugs, and sex. What is a bit frustrating is that these topics are often overlooked by schools because parents and school administrators are worried about this being an influence on their kids (and making students want to do such things); when in reality, it is extremely important to allow students to properly educate themselves on the topic by allowing them to take in this empowering series.

The Gripped book series enables young adults to gain an understanding of how drugs are more powerful than they may think. In Gripped Part 1, we saw the start of addiction and what it looked like and what it does. In Gripped Part 2, now we get to know each character more in depth and understand them on a personal level—some being midway through addiction. Some characters have made some significant changes in their everyday behavior and actions because of drugs and substance abuse. For example, we see Cathy, who is completely innocent in Part 1. She was against drugs, alcohol, and her friends’ impulsive behavior. Then we can see in Part 2, she begins to become hooked on drugs from the influences of the people she is around. She was influenced by characters such as Chris and her ex-boyfriend Jason. Despite her and others being pulled into a sticky situation, I have always seen the good in Cathy, and this proves that just because you make a wrong decision doesn’t mean you aren’t a good person deep inside and that people in a situation like this may just need help from ones around them.

I rate this book a 5 out of 5 stars, as it is completely accurate of what life as a teen can be like today, and provides important lessons on how to navigate through it all.

Synopsis

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

Fourteen-year-old Chris Dunkin is known for being the life of the party and everyone’s favorite friend. Despite his amicable nature, he carries around deep-seated pain from his childhood that he frequently numbs with alcohol and drugs.

After hosting a party, Chris awakes with a strange vibe running through his body and no recollection of the previous night. When he learns the horrifying truth of what his night entailed, the trajectory of his life is changed forever.

The Gripped Characters: Q&A with Olivia Halle on ‘Blindsided’

Article by Olivia Halle, Hingham, Massachusetts


Olivia Halle is a senior at Hingham High School. She is a member of the Varsity Tennis Team and also enjoys sailing, reading, and hiking. Olivia is involved in Hingham’s Mentor Program, Green Team, and Medical Sciences Club along with being president of her school’s National Honor Society. 


After reading Stacy Padula’s novel, Gripped Part 2: Blindsided, Olivia was interviewed about her honest thoughts on the characters and their relationships in the dramatic series.

  1. How has your opinion of protagonist Taylor Dunkin changed from the beginning of the series until the end of book 2?

At first, I felt that Taylor exuded a sense of entitlement and self-absorption, both of which made me repulsed by his very presence in the lives of adolescents and that he was a “role model” and “hometown hero”. However, Taylor is beginning to redeem himself by taking steps to get clean and away from dealing drugs as much as he can. I think these strides, especially by going to meet with Northeastern by the end of book 2, contribute to my feeling that he is beginning to understand how his drug addiction has not only affected his football career and relationship with his family, but how he has also been a contributing factor to the exposure of drugs to others and the catalyst of their own drug abuse.

  1. How has your opinion of Chris Dunkin changed since the beginning of the series?

I think my opinion on Chris has changed as I place more culpability on him for his own addiction. At the beginning of the series, I primarily placed blame on Taylor and his influence on Chris, but now I believe that Chris is mature enough to make his own decisions. After Chris overdosed, I realized that if someone chooses to use drugs, they need to understand the consequences, especially if they are mixing substances. However, after finishing Part 2, I am proud of Chris for prioritizing his wellness over his relationships with others, especially those who abuse substances.

  1. After reading books 1 & 2, are you rooting for Cathy Kagelli to end up with Jason Davids or Marc Dunkin?

I believe that Cathy should not end up with neither Jason nor Marc as she needs to prioritize her relationship with herself. Cathy’s crippling social anxiety causes her to turn to drugs, so she must work on her mental health before even considering a relationship with Jason or Marc. Yet, I feel that the best way for Cathy to be mentally healthy, she must work on her relationship with Chantal, as that seems to be the root of her anxiety.

  1. What are your honest thoughts on Chris Dunkin and Lisa Ankerman’s relationship?

I think that Chris and Lisa definitely needed to take a break from each other, as they both fed off of each other’s abuse of substances. Chris overdosing was the reality check that they both needed. What they are taking a part in, the abuse of substances, truly is fatal, and their reality check, Chris’s overdose, I think has enabled both of them to understand the need for positive influences in their respective lives. 

  1. Who are your two favorite characters so far in the series and why?

Right now, I definitely have to root for Chris and Taylor, as both of them are taking monumental steps in their roads to recovery. Chris’s frightening overdose placed him at a crossroads where he either would continue down a path of drugs, that would most likely eventually kill him, or he could choose to get sober; Chris choosing sobriety makes me proud of him for holding a value in his life and sobriety that he did not have prior to the OD. As for Taylor, I think he is taking similar steps to Chris in the sense that he is sobering up, and he is getting back into football, which is a clear indication to me that he has priorities straight. 

Synopsis

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

Fourteen-year-old Chris Dunkin is known for being the life of the party and everyone’s favorite friend. Despite his amicable nature, he carries around deep-seated pain from his childhood that he frequently numbs with alcohol and drugs.

After hosting a party, Chris awakes with a strange vibe running through his body and no recollection of the previous night. When he learns the horrifying truth of what his night entailed, the trajectory of his life is changed forever.

High School Senior Recommends Realistic Y.A. Novel to Parents, Coaches, & Teachers

Written by Sarah Parrish, Dover, Massachusetts

Sarah is a senior at Dover-Sherborn High School where she is captain of the Alpine Ski Team and the Track and Field Team. She is also a member of her school’s Peer Helping Club and Community Service club. Throughout the summer, Sarah works as a counselor at a local summer camp and also as a server at the Chatham Filling station. With a passion for leadership and athletics, she enjoys ski instructing at Burke Mountain and coaching field hockey for Dover-Sherborn Youth Field Hockey. She also enjoys her participation in the Senior High Youth Group at Pilgrim Church where she volunteers around her community. In her freetime, she enjoys boating, skiing, running and traveling. 


Through Gripped Part 3: The Fallout by Stacy Padula, teenagers can learn the harmful and addictive effects of several drugs in an easily understandable way. This book is important for teenagers to read because it is easy to understand how drugs can take over one’s life in a way that is relatable. Many kids nowadays believe nothing bad will ever happen to them and will always happen to someone else, but this book uncovers the dangers in a way that is not far from reality. 

This gripping novel conveys a message that people can begin using drugs to cover up some sort of trauma or pain in their lives. For example, Jason Davids got Cathy Kagelli into drugs when she was struggling with her relationship with her twin sister, Chantal. The book also conveys that people are not immediately aware of their addiction. Taylor Dunkin tells his brother Marc that he did not know he was addicted until he felt the withdrawals and that it never occurred to him that he was becoming dependent until his pills were not accessible anymore.

Adults could also benefit from reading Gripped Part 3 by becoming more aware of what some adolescents are exposed to. Whether these adults are teachers, parents, or coaches, they can all benefit by educating themselves and helping prevent teenagers from getting involved with drugs. For example, Jason’s doctor prescribed him Adderall, and his parents are clueless that he has been taking double his prescribed dose everyday. When Jason realizes he has a problem and goes to his mother for help, it is obvious she is clueless that the drug has been detrimental to her son’s mental health. Instead, she brings up the importance of earning straight A’s and seems resistant to the idea of lowering his dose. Not wanting to admit to his pattern of abuse, Jason ultimately decides to try to wean himself off the drug on his own, but parental support would have been helpful. This demonstrates that even caring parents like Jason’s can be unaware when their children are abusing prescribed meds—just as Taylor Dunkin’s parents had no idea. The Davids and the Dunkins assumed their “good kids” with straight A’s, Jason and Taylor, were smart enough to abstain from drug abuse. If adults want to learn the signs of prescription drugs abuse, they should read the entire Gripped series by Stacy Padula. The best kids from the best families can be ensnared.

Addiction does not discriminate.

Synopsis

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

After a near-death experience, Chris Dunkin begins surrounding himself with positive influences and putting his efforts towards living a clean lifestyle. However, the night before school starts, his best friend Jason convinces him to host a party that shows Chris more about himself than he actually wants to know.

Meanwhile, Marc Dunkin has received word from a detective that his oldest brother Taylor is a person of interest in a highly confidential case headed by the Boston Police Department. They know Taylor’s clean; they know he wants out of the game; and they want to help make that happen. However, their “help” will come at a cost-one that may put Taylor and his entire family in grave danger. Taylor is trying to get his life back in order after an opiate addiction wreaked havoc on his once promising athletic future. Getting clean was a difficult feat, but breaking free from the Bilotti crime ring will present an even greater challenge.

Five Stars for Stacy Padula’s Novel ‘Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors’

Written by Nasin Groshek, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Nasin is a senior at Rising Tide Charter Public School, a college preparatory regional high school located in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  He enjoys travel, boating, photography, nature, volunteer work, and spending time with family and friends.  Nasin is a member of both the Community Action and Eco Clubs at Rising Tide.  He is also the founder of the Business Club at Rising Tide and looks forward to studying business in college.


The fourth book in Stacy Padula’s Gripped series, Smoke & Mirrors, is a compelling story about a former NFL prospect, trying to break free from a criminal organization, and substance abuse, destroying teenagers’ relationships. This book also dives into the relationship between Jason and Cathy and the grip of drugs on both of them.

I recommend that tweens, teenagers, young adults, and parents read Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors. This book and the series of Gripped books address in a realistic manner drug and alcohol abuse by teenagers and the negative consequences of such abuse. This book and the series effectively educates tweens, teenagers, young adults, and parents about how drug and alcohol abuse may arise and the negative consequences to a young adult’s relationships and future aspirations.

Synopsis

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?

Reviews

“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

The Gripped Characters: Q&A with Deirdre Mitchell on ‘Blindsided’

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.


How has your opinion of Taylor changed from the beginning of the series until the end of book 2?

My opinion of Taylor has changed in a positive way from the beginning of the series. For example, at the end of book two Taylor is on his way to Northeastern to see if his grades are good enough for him to transfer to a better school for football. His actions show that Taylor still has a passion for football even after everything he has gone through and he has not given up on his dreams.  

How has your opinion of Chris changed since the beginning of the series?

My opinion of Chris has changed in a negative way. I think Chris has been a very bad influence on his friends, especially Lisa. One night when everyone was at Chris’ house, he encouraged Lisa to take Molly with him. This was a very bad decision because Molly is an addictive drug, which someone, especially as young as Lisa, should not be exposed to.  

After reading books 1 & 2, are you rooting for Cathy to end up with Jason or Marc?

After reading books one and two, I am rooting for Cathy to end up with Jason. Cathy and Jason are my favorite couple of the series because, in my opinion, they are a good fit for each other. I admire how they always check in with each other to make sure neither of them are getting too involved in drugs. I also appreciate how they both respect each other’s beliefs and morals. For example, Cathy’s religion is very important to her therefore, Jason respects her values, and does not pressure her to give up her virginity. 

What are your honest thoughts on Chris and Lisa’s relationship?

Unlike my opinion on Cathy and Jason’s relationship, I think Chris and Lisa are a bad couple. One reason I think Chris and Lisa are not meant to be together is because they pressure each other into experimenting with different drugs. One night, Chris made Lisa try Molly which lead to her having a reaction which almost concluded in the two of them having sex. 

Who are your two favorite characters so far in the series and why?

So far, my two favorite characters are Marc and Jason. I like Marc because of his relationship with Taylor. Even though Marc got mad at Taylor for his poor decisions, he never lost his belief that his brother would turn his life around. I like Jason because of the way he treats Cathy. Jason loves Cathy more than any girl he has ever been with and he consistently proves his love throughout the series. Jason always respects Cathy’s morals, values, and decisions and never pressures her into anything.

Synopsis

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

Fourteen-year-old Chris Dunkin is known for being the life of the party and everyone’s favorite friend. Despite his amicable nature, he carries around deep-seated pain from his childhood that he frequently numbs with alcohol and drugs.

After hosting a party, Chris awakes with a strange vibe running through his body and no recollection of the previous night. When he learns the horrifying truth of what his night entailed, the trajectory of his life is changed forever.

The Themes, Characters, & Writing Style in ‘Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors’ Make it a 5-star Read for All Ages

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. 


After reading Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors by Stacy Padula, I would recommend this book to middle schoolers and high schoolers because it shows how kids can easily start using drugs.  It is important for middle and high schoolers to learn how drug use can start so that they are prepared and so they know the possible effects of drug use.  This book of the series detailed many times how a good kid like Taylor can get caught up in painkillers that completely ruin his life.  Having kids understand drug abuse can start for any person is extremely important.

The topics covered in this book are relevant for teenagers because it discusses many situations teens will be put in.  Parties, being offered alcohol, being offered drugs, sexual encounters, and lying and hiding things from parents and friends.  The most important lesson that the book gives us about these topics is to be extremely cautious.  We learn through the book how all of these things can be extremely detrimental to all aspects of the kids’ lives.  Their academics can drop, their relationships and friend circles can change, and their drive to push themselves in athletics could start to falter.

Parents should also read this book because they will further understand the severity of teenagers’ behaviors.  Many parents expect their kids to do the right thing and not be stupid, but it doesn’t really work like that.  The book proves through characters like Cathy and Alyssa that innocent people make bad decisions when surrounded by people involved in dangerous behavior.  

What I liked best about Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors was the immense drama at all times.  There was always something happening that kept you on your toes such as Jeff taking the vicodin and what would be the consequences to everyone, or why couldn’t Taylor pick up Jordan at the airport.  The other things that kept me turning the page was the constant dialogue between characters.  I don’t like books where there is little dialogue between characters, thus I enjoyed the abundant dialogue in this book. Additionally, the way that the book goes back in time and then back to the present is very cool.  Almost no books do that, but I enjoy reading this style although it frustrates you when you can’t gain closure about a timeline starting at the beginning of the book until the end of the book.  For the same reason it keeps a reader engaged to read more.  I enjoy it because in the present we know things that in the past the characters don’t, which is nice because it keeps the reader “in the know.”

Looking ahead to Gripped 5, I am very curious to see what will happen to Taylor.  Is he in great danger?  Is his family in great danger?  Does the mafia know the police are investigating him?  I’m also very interested to see if this whole scenario of trying to help Taylor will bring Marc and Jordan closer together, or if once Jordan tells Marc that he’s been texting Michelle if Marc will be mad. I’m interested to see what shapes up between Cathy’s relationship.  Will she choose Jason or Marc?

Synopsis

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?

First Book in Gripped Series Hits Home with Teen Readers

| Written by Laurie O’Sullivan, Dover, Massachusetts |

Laurie O’Sullivan is a 17 year old senior at Dover Sherborn High School where she likes to be involved with sports and extracurriculars. She is part of the National Honor Society and tutors high schoolers who want extra help in biology. She runs on the track team, leads a service club, is part of a women’s group, and is involved with an environmental club. In her free time, she likes to read, listen to music, and play the piano. Her love for spending time with kids is shown through her summer job as a camp counselor and her regular babysitting hours. She hopes to study communications in college and travel a lot in the future!


In middle school and high school, it is common for teenagers to go down the wrong path as pressure builds or they get caught up in the wrong crowd. Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula makes kids more aware of how easily this can happen and maybe even become more conscious of their surroundings. As a teenager myself, I’ve seen many kids start to get in trouble in school, with the police, and get stuck in some sticky situations and it’s comforting for there to be a book that portrays all of these situations. It can even help guide kids in the right direction and away from the path Taylor Dunkin fell down.

I would recommend Gripped Part 1 to high school and college students. This book touches on topics such as substance abuse, which to younger kids could be too much, but to teenagers is a very real issue that many of them have seen, first hand, at this point in their lives. Gripped sheds light on a very prevalent topic in this age group. It can help them understand the feelings and actions in situations like this and make sure they don’t feel alone if they have ever gone through it themselves or if someone they know has. The characters’ ages and setting are also perfect for this age group.

My favorite part of the story was the dialogue. I think in a book like this where it has a lot to do with relationships and young adults, seeing their interactions shapes their character development and shows their personality way more than any amount of description can. 

The first book in the Gripped series sends a wake up call to many young adults. It creates a sense of fear for the possibility of being surrounded by people struggling with substance abuse while also showing the effect of mental health beneath it all. Gripped Part 1 does a great job of shedding light on a tough topic, while also bringing out deeper meaningful connections, personal growth, and resilience to leave the reader feeling inspired to do their best and have sympathy for others.

Synopsis

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.

The Plot Twists & Drama in ‘Taylor’s Story’ Leave Readers Gripped

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. 


With the release of Taylor’s Story, the Gripped series by Stacy Padula continues to be relevant for all young adults and high schoolers to read. As this series progresses, the topic of drug addiction and abuse stays relevant throughout, proving to be a cautionary tale of the dangers that come with them. Both a thrilling and suspenseful book, Taylor’s Story captures the dangers that come with drugs while enticing readers to continue reading with dramatic plot twists and storylines. 

The many topics in this book are very relatable on many levels for most teens.  From being exposed to various bad situations or peer pressure, to drama with friends and family, Gripped has it all. However, seeing these situations play out over the course of the five books proves that drug addiction and abuse only leads to serious consequences. Seeing the perspectives of the many characters, all with different experiences relating to the topic of substance abuse, shows readers how much of a slippery slope drug abuse can be. 

At this point, I think my favorite character is Jordan. One of the reasons that I like Jordan is because of the way that his character seems to have developed since he has gone to college. Despite him being labeled as a “party-animal” while he was in high school, once he arrived at college, he seems to have turned this all around, devoting himself to his academics and athletics. I think he has turned out to be one of the more responsible and moral characters of the series, which is surprising considering the way his character was originally portrayed. 

After reading the ending, I am very curious to see how Taylor’s storyline will progress. With the rather ominous ending of his family watching his video, it is unclear whether he will survive. I am curious to see what ends up happening with this plotline, and if he will make it back to his family. 

Synopsis

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.

Reviews

“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

South Shore Author’s Book Series Sends Vital Message to Teen Readers

Article by Olivia Halle, Hingham, Massachusetts


Olivia Halle is a senior at Hingham High School. She is a member of the Varsity Tennis Team and also enjoys sailing, reading, and hiking. Olivia is involved in Hingham’s Mentor Program, Green Team, and Medical Sciences Club along with being president of her school’s National Honor Society. 


Stacy A. Padula is an author from the south shore of Massachusetts whose Gripped book series is currently being adapted for television. As a senior in high school who recently read Gripped Part 2: Blindsided, I believe the Gripped series should be read by adolescents despite its mature content because it examines the harsh realities of drug use.

After finishing Blindsided, readers will come out with a better understanding on the detrimental effects of drug use along with the ability to navigate these issues in their own lives. Middle schoolers and high schoolers alike will most likely begin to be exposed to the difficulties of addiction, and by reading a book that handles this kind of content in a digestible manner, readers will be best prepared to to put themselves in situations where they will not be at risk of drug abuse and will have the ability to share their knowledge with others. Kids will learn that they will face challenges in the years to come, but they will take their knowledge of the detrimental effects of drug use on health and personal relationships in order to properly navigate adolescence.

Although Blindsided heavily focuses on the brutal nature of the abuse of drugs, it also handles unhealthy relationships and communication skills, which are universal issues that may be more prevalent than exposure to drugs. The book teaches the importance of checking in on friends, making sure mental health is a priority, and at the end of the day being able to have sincere conversations about struggling. If readers take away one lesson from this book, they will understand the value of maintaining healthy relationships and prioritizing all aspects of health.

Synopsis

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

Fourteen-year-old Chris Dunkin is known for being the life of the party and everyone’s favorite friend. Despite his amicable nature, he carries around deep-seated pain from his childhood that he frequently numbs with alcohol and drugs.

After hosting a party, Chris awakes with a strange vibe running through his body and no recollection of the previous night. When he learns the horrifying truth of what his night entailed, the trajectory of his life is changed forever.