Fordham University Graduate Reviews ‘When Darkness Tries to Hide’ by Stacy Padula

Written by Reilly Fournier, Falmouth, Massachusetts

Stacy Padula’s second installment of the Montgomery Lake High (MLH) series “When Darkness Tries to Hide” brings back the beloved characters from book one, while also introducing new characters and new relationships, which only complicate life for the teens of MLH. This book throws the readers completely into the MLH world on a deeper level than ever before and makes for a quick read as you will not be able to put it down!

Some of the same topics of issue, such as drug addiction and social struggles are still relevant in book 2, but we have new characters and personalities navigating these familiar problems. Through this subtle change, Padula is able to maintain the tone and feel of the first book, while also adding a refreshing twist. For example, main character Chris Dunkin has recently discovered a relationship with God that he had been unknowingly searching for, for so long. From this new relationship with God and his church, Chris has become sober and is now acting as a spiritual guide for his best friend Jason, who is just starting the process of overcoming addiction. 

Another obstacle Montgomery Lake must overcome is the tragic injury of Andy Rossetti which leaves some heartbroken, some riddled with guilt, and others questioning everything. Padula expertly expresses how earth shattering such events can be for anyone, especially young people who already feel helpless to their circumstances. Rather than leaving Andy’s fate up to chance, Padula offers young readers hope and opportunities to take action when her characters join together and plan a prayer service for their classmate. Even those who barely knew Andy, and those who aren’t part of the church, step up to help in any way they can. By demonstrating the actions that can be taken in trying times, no matter how small, Padula offers some agency to any reader feeling lost as a result of being affected by tragedy.

I am so excited to read book number 3 and feel like I’ve truly entered the MLH world by continuing to read this series!

Synopsis

Students at Montgomery Lake High believe the ominous clouds and impending storm will only bring a temporary interruption to their regularly scheduled lives. However, when the tempest grows worse and a classmate’s life hangs in the balance, students must pull together to support each other and seek help for their friend. As the lines between cliques dissolve, dark secrets are revealed and hearts are transformed.

About Reilly Fournier

Reilly is a recent graduate from Fordham University where she received her Bachelors of Arts as a double major in English and Communications with a concentration in Film. During her time in New York she held many positions, but the most formative experience was being a Resident Assistant to freshman students. She has an expansive background working in multiple fields such as marketing, film production, and law. When she’s not reading and working on projects, Reilly loves to play soccer, watch Boston sports, and spend time with family. Though she grew up in Central Massachusetts, she currently lives in Falmouth where she is building a life and planning a wedding with her fiancé.

“Gripped 3” Shows Deeper Causes of Teen Substance Abuse Than Many Would Think

Written by Maya Daly, Duxbury, Massachusetts

Gripped Part 3: The Fallout by Stacy Padula is a Y.A. fiction novel about substance abuse and relationships. It shows readers that drug abuse stems from deeper issues within people’s lives—more than just bad influences or hanging out with the wrong crowd. While there are some bad influencers in the series, many times when characters get deeper into drugs is when something bad happens externally in their lives; they cope in unhealthy ways by turning to drugs. One example of this in this series is Jason Davids. When he was upset about his falling out with his best friend Chris Dunkin, he overcompensated for his pain by drinking excessively and using drugs. Though being around the wrong people does not help with drug use, many times it comes heavily into play when something within their lives goes wrong.

So far in the series, female protagonist Cathy Kagelli has been the most intriguing character to me, as she has had the most substantial change in her from the beginning of the series to now. It seems that she has gotten herself into a sticky situation filled with lies and half truths, where she is drifting farther and farther from the morals she once had in the beginning of the series. I am interested to see if she takes the steps to get closer back to her original self, and if so, how she will go about doing so.

While I think that Marc Dunkin will be a good influence on Cathy because of his mainly sober lifestyle, it seems that Cathy still has some unresolved feelings toward Jason, which likely will complicate their relationship. I think that Cathy and Jason have a very good and deep understanding of each other, and in the end, I think that they both do want the best for one another. I am more so rooting for her and Jason, but I think that Cathy could benefit from more time apart from Jason while she tries to stay away from the drugs that she was close to becoming addicted to. In the end, I think that Cathy and Jason will reunite with each other, but hopefully in a healthier way where they both are able to be in a better headspace and away from drugs. 

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.

About Maya Daly

Maya is a junior 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. 

Nasin Groshek Reviews ‘Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told’ by Stacy Padula

Written by Nasin Groshek, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula is a fast-paced, compelling story about substance abuse and how it affects young adults’ relationships and future aspirations. I highly recommend this book to other high school and middle school students since they should easily relate to this story.

Taylor Dunkin was a star athlete in high school with aspirations of becoming an NFL player but now finds himself a person of interest in a police investigation of a notorious crime ring. Unfortunately, Taylor became addicted to drugs due to an injury and then became a drug dealer to support his drug habit. Taylor desperately wants to resume his football career and repair his relationship with family and friends. I am excited to read the next book in the series. I will be rooting for Taylor!

About Nasin Groshek

Nasin is a junior 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.

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.

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

“Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy A. Padula is a fast-paced and complex novel perfect for tweens, teens, and parents that is hard to put down. The many different story-lines are captivating and make you want to read the entire book in one sitting.” – Kate Nally, Boston College

“Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula is book that I could not be put down due to its unique character web and thorough storyline. It addresses the problem of addiction within teenagers from a variety of situations, such as affecting a potential professional football player named Taylor Dunkin. This book is a quick read that is perfect for middle school and high school students, while also being very applicable to adults wanting to know more about teenage drug abuse. This book introduces the consequences that come with taking drugs, and this could hopefully reduce the likelihood of students utilizing drugs throughout their education. I loved this book both because it was powerful and thorough, yet easy to follow.” – Kyle Banker, University of Miami

“Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula quite literally ‘grips’ the reader into the story, resulting in the inability to put the book down. It transports readers to the mysterious, yet intriguing realm of young adults, teaching valuable lessons in a journey through the pages.” – Olivia Syat, University of Illinois

“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

Y.A. Fiction Novel Expertly Juxtaposes the Internal & External Struggles of Being a Modern-day Teenager

Written by Reilly Fournier, Falmouth, Massachusetts

In the premiere of the series “Montgomery Lake High: The Right Person,” author Stacy Padula expertly juxtaposes both the internal and external struggles of being and becoming a modern day teenager.

From addressing a growing drug epidemic amongst this generation to opening the door for conversations about self-reflection and development/maintenance of a religious or spiritual relationship with God, Padula doesn’t shy away from the real everyday battles young adults are currently facing.

The story is packed with comical references and details that will make any teen blush from relatability. Small inclusions such as references to needing a “bus note” from a parent to see a friend after school and traveling as a convoy to retrieve food from the lunch-line demonstrate Padula’s insight into the realities of high school life. But, amongst the finer details, her story also offers a critical perspective to parents of how teenage-dom has changed with the new generations. (And how it, in some ways, hasn’t changed at all!) 

This first installment of the Montgomery Lake High series easily earns a 5 star review. The variety of characters, with overlapping friendships and familial ties, allows any reader to find familiarity and comfort in one character, while also being challenged by the perspective of another. I cannot wait to continue reading this series and more books by Stacy Padula!

Synopsis

Growing up in the shadow of two NFL-destined cousins, Chris Dunkin has high hopes for his own future in football. However, a drug addiction threatens to destroy everything he has worked hard to attain. When Chris meets Courtney Angeletti–the mayor’s straightedge Christian daughter–he believes she could be the source of inspiration he needs to overcome his destructive lifestyle. Courtney, however, has other ideas.

The desire to rebel has been tugging on Courtney’s heartstrings for some time, and Chris’s “bad-boy” reputation draws her to him like a moth to a flame. After all, he is a central part of the most popular clique in her high school. Will Chris pull Courtney away from her faith or will Courtney inspire him to overcome his addiction?

About Reilly Fournier

Reilly is a recent graduate from Fordham University where she received her Bachelors of Arts as a double major in English and Communications with a concentration in Film. During her time in New York she held many positions, but the most formative experience was being a Resident Assistant to freshman students. She has an expansive background working in multiple fields such as marketing, film production, and law. When she’s not reading and working on projects, Reilly loves to play soccer, watch Boston sports, and spend time with family. Though she grew up in Central Massachusetts, she currently lives in Falmouth where she is building a life and planning a wedding with her fiancé.

A Fascinating Page Turner with an Important Message for Teens

Written by Maya Daly, Duxbury, Massachusetts

Stacy Padula’s Gripped Part 3: The Fallout is a captivating story, following the plot of teens on their journeys to sobriety or falling deeper into drug use. This story continues with the main characters of the past two books now coming up on their freshman year at Montgomery Lake High, all while they struggle with drug use, drama, and moral conflicts. The combination of some characters who begin to see the flaws with their drug-entangled lives and others who are uncontrollably spiraling down the path of drug use makes for another page-turning book in this series. 

Along with being an alluring story, Gripped Part 3 is also a very important story, as it deals with the issues that drugs bring into many people’s lives. This story is an important one for both teens and adults to pick up, teaching lessons on the impacts of drug use from the perspectives of many very different people, showing how drugs can influence the lives of anyone. This story is both a fascinating page-turner, while also being another informative and important story, making for a great addition to the already exceptional series! 

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.

About Maya Daly

Maya is a junior 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. 

Teen Novel Educates Young Adults About Substance Abuse Through Compelling Characters

Written by Nasin Groshek, Plymouth, Massachusetts

As a young adult, the reality is that we all are exposed to drugs and alcohol in some way and often experience peer pressure to participate. Young adults should relate to Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula since it shows the social interactions between the characters in the story and how the different characters are affected by drugs, alcohol, and gossip. Many of the characters in the story are similar in many respects to my friends and classmates. Therefore, I recommend that all middle school and high school students read Gripped Part 1. This book addresses the realities of drug and alcohol abuse and the negative consequences to young adults of such drug and alcohol abuse through middle school, high school, and college. This book effectively educates young adults about drug and alcohol abuse through interesting characters and a compelling story.

I enjoyed the very realistic social interactions between the various characters in the story. The story goes into great depth describing these social interactions and the peer pressure that most young adults experience today. The story closely examines the relationships amongst young adults. The message of Gripped is that substance abuse can have severe consequences on the future of young adults and their relationships with family and friends. Through a compelling cast of characters and story, the book reinforces the devastating consequences of substance abuse. The book demonstrates how early participation in drugs and alcohol can potentially negatively change the future and relationships of young adults.

About Nasin Groshek

Nasin is a junior 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.

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.

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

“Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy A. Padula is a fast-paced and complex novel perfect for tweens, teens, and parents that is hard to put down. The many different story-lines are captivating and make you want to read the entire book in one sitting.” – Kate Nally, Boston College

“Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula is book that I could not be put down due to its unique character web and thorough storyline. It addresses the problem of addiction within teenagers from a variety of situations, such as affecting a potential professional football player named Taylor Dunkin. This book is a quick read that is perfect for middle school and high school students, while also being very applicable to adults wanting to know more about teenage drug abuse. This book introduces the consequences that come with taking drugs, and this could hopefully reduce the likelihood of students utilizing drugs throughout their education. I loved this book both because it was powerful and thorough, yet easy to follow.” – Kyle Banker, University of Miami

“Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula quite literally ‘grips’ the reader into the story, resulting in the inability to put the book down. It transports readers to the mysterious, yet intriguing realm of young adults, teaching valuable lessons in a journey through the pages.” – Olivia Syat, University of Illinois

“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

Q&A with Megan Farinacci on Stacy Padula’s ‘Gripped’ Characters

Written by Megan Farinacci, Medfield, MA

After reading Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors, Megan Farinacci, a senior at Newton Country Day School, was asked to share how her opinion of certain main characters has changed throughout the series.

Jordan Dunkin

I have come to realize that Jordan is very trustworthy and cares a lot about those around him. Gripped 4 shows his true self, whereas I feel like in previous books we only knew him as Marc’s enemy and a date rapist. Overtime, I have come to realize that Marc and Jordan are more similar than they think; they both want to help their loved ones get clean and would do anything for their families. 

Taylor Dunkin

Gripped 4 uncovers more on Taylor’s mental health. I no longer see a villain; I see a broken and lost college student who is trying to navigate his way out of his drug addictions. He cares more about his family than himself and wants to do anything to make them proud of him again.

Jason Davids

Gripped 4 revealed Jason’s ugly side. I used to give Jason the benefit of the doubt for how caring he was towards his family and friends, but everything seems to be falling apart with him. He only cares about drugs and doesn’t realize how bad of an addiction he has. He is harming his relationship with Cathy because of it.

Luke Davids

Throughout Gripped 4, Luke is so worried about himself and his drug business. He is worried that his girlfriend is using him for drugs, and he has fallen into the wrong crowd. He himself doesn’t seem to be abusing drugs, which frustrates me because he is causing so many other characters to abuse drugs. 

Cathy Kagelli

In Gripped 4, Cathy made a plethora of bad decisions to make those around her happy. I feel bad for her. I see how lost she is in her relationship with Jason. She is trying so hard to ween Jason off of drugs but ends up harming herself in the long run.

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?

Emmy-winning producer Mark Blutman Developing TV Adaptation of Stacy Padula’s ‘Gripped’ Book Series

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 of Netflix’s Emmy-winning series Last Chance U

“Stacy Padula’s masterful control of a bifurcated storyline keeps the reader intrigued in two chronologies of events. The characters grow richer with each passing novel, as the depth of relationships between them approaches reality.” – Mackenzie Wells, University of Georgia

“This book is perfect for teens and their parents as it offers unique perspectives on complex issues that teens face today. Teens and parents can learn from this book as it offers insight into the difficulties one may find navigating through high school or parenting a teen through high school. Overall, Gripped 4 was a fascinating read that leaves so much to be answered in Gripped 5. I would give this book a 10/10 and would encourage all teens and their parents to pick up this book along with the entire Gripped series.” Michael Farinacci, University of Notre Dame

“This novel is an engaging and meaningful read, ideal for high school freshmen, while also being very applicable to adults wanting to know more about teenage drug abuse. Gripped Part 4 displays the many drawbacks of taking drugs, including losing friends, girlfriends, and your thoughts on your own life. As a result, Padula effectively shows the extreme efforts needed to begin overcoming an addiction in order to begin a new life; this is shown to be very hard to complete. This would hopefully influence all young adults to avoid using drugs in order to prevent going through this troublesome process, and to avoid losing the trust and relationships with loved ones and friends.” – Kyle Banker, University of Miami

About Megan Farinacci

Megan is a senior at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. She is a member of the Varsity Cross Country and Varsity Lacrosse teams at NCDS. She also plays club lacrosse for Mass Elite. She is involved in her school’s health science, yearbook, and running clubs. She has a passion for art and is currently studying 2D design. Megan also enjoys traveling. Over the summer, she traveled to Guatemala with School the World where she helped build a school for a community in need. Her favorite subjects are science and English. She plans to study science or nursing in college. 

Newton Country Day Senior Reviews ‘Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors’ by Stacy Padula

Written by Megan Farinacci, Medfield, MA

Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors by Stacy Padula is filled with a series of plots and perspectives that give insight to teens and parents. In this Y.A. novel, we see many relationships ruined, and new characters fall into a bad path with drugs. We also start to see new characters’ perspectives that we have not seen in previous Gripped books. I highly recommend this book to any and all readers. It is thrilling, exciting, dramatic, and will have you hooked.

The author’s ability to seamlessly connect several plot lines is unlike anything I have read. Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors is the best one yet, and I cannot wait to read Taylor’s Story next.

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?

Emmy-winning producer Mark Blutman Developing TV Adaptation of Stacy Padula’s ‘Gripped’ Book Series

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 of Netflix’s Emmy-winning series Last Chance U

“Stacy Padula’s masterful control of a bifurcated storyline keeps the reader intrigued in two chronologies of events. The characters grow richer with each passing novel, as the depth of relationships between them approaches reality.” – Mackenzie Wells, University of Georgia

“This book is perfect for teens and their parents as it offers unique perspectives on complex issues that teens face today. Teens and parents can learn from this book as it offers insight into the difficulties one may find navigating through high school or parenting a teen through high school. Overall, Gripped 4 was a fascinating read that leaves so much to be answered in Gripped 5. I would give this book a 10/10 and would encourage all teens and their parents to pick up this book along with the entire Gripped series.” Michael Farinacci, University of Notre Dame

“This novel is an engaging and meaningful read, ideal for high school freshmen, while also being very applicable to adults wanting to know more about teenage drug abuse. Gripped Part 4 displays the many drawbacks of taking drugs, including losing friends, girlfriends, and your thoughts on your own life. As a result, Padula effectively shows the extreme efforts needed to begin overcoming an addiction in order to begin a new life; this is shown to be very hard to complete. This would hopefully influence all young adults to avoid using drugs in order to prevent going through this troublesome process, and to avoid losing the trust and relationships with loved ones and friends.” – Kyle Banker, University of Miami

About Megan Farinacci

Megan is a senior at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. She is a member of the Varsity Cross Country and Varsity Lacrosse teams at NCDS. She also plays club lacrosse for Mass Elite. She is involved in her school’s health science, yearbook, and running clubs. She has a passion for art and is currently studying 2D design. Megan also enjoys traveling. Over the summer, she traveled to Guatemala with School the World where she helped build a school for a community in need. Her favorite subjects are science and English. She plans to study science or nursing in college. 

The Y.A. Page Tuner Parents Should Be Reading

Written by Megan Farinacci, Medfield, MA

As a senior in high school, I highly recommend the book Gripped 4: Smoke & Mirrors, along with any of the books in the Gripped series by Stacy Padula, to parents and teens. Gripped 4 touches on heavy topics like drug and alcohol abuse, which are rarely talked about in schools across the country. It is important for teens to be knowledgeable on these topics and be able to share their knowledge with their peers for the good of their community.

Many of the parents in Gripped 4 are oblivious to their children suffering from drug addictions. Drug addictions are not predictable; we see, first hand, that the characters in Gripped 4 have been able to conceal their struggles with drugs and alcohol from their parents and even their closest friends. Gripped 4 can be eye opening for any parent because, after reading it, they will come to realize how easy it is for children to hide their struggles from their parents.

The Gripped series offers many perspectives on issues that are relevant to both parents and teens. It is important for teenagers to be knowledgeable on the effects of substance abuse and how we can prevent those around us from following a path that many of the characters in Gripped 4 follow. These issues are prevalent in our society, and the Gripped book series offers many different perspectives that relate to real life situations. 

In addition to being informative, Gripped 4 keeps readers hooked through its jumping timeline and numerous perspectives. The constant flashbacks give us a series of information on certain characters we would not get otherwise and help readers form a unique perspective of each character. The book also jumps from character to character, which keeps the readers wanting to turn the page. Learn more about Gripped 4:

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?

Emmy-winning producer Mark Blutman Developing TV Adaptation of Stacy Padula’s ‘Gripped’ Book Series

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 of Netflix’s Emmy-winning series Last Chance U

“Stacy Padula’s masterful control of a bifurcated storyline keeps the reader intrigued in two chronologies of events. The characters grow richer with each passing novel, as the depth of relationships between them approaches reality.” – Mackenzie Wells, University of Georgia

“This book is perfect for teens and their parents as it offers unique perspectives on complex issues that teens face today. Teens and parents can learn from this book as it offers insight into the difficulties one may find navigating through high school or parenting a teen through high school. Overall, Gripped 4 was a fascinating read that leaves so much to be answered in Gripped 5. I would give this book a 10/10 and would encourage all teens and their parents to pick up this book along with the entire Gripped series.” Michael Farinacci, University of Notre Dame

“This novel is an engaging and meaningful read, ideal for high school freshmen, while also being very applicable to adults wanting to know more about teenage drug abuse. Gripped Part 4 displays the many drawbacks of taking drugs, including losing friends, girlfriends, and your thoughts on your own life. As a result, Padula effectively shows the extreme efforts needed to begin overcoming an addiction in order to begin a new life; this is shown to be very hard to complete. This would hopefully influence all young adults to avoid using drugs in order to prevent going through this troublesome process, and to avoid losing the trust and relationships with loved ones and friends.” – Kyle Banker, University of Miami

About Megan Farinacci

Megan is a senior at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. She is a member of the Varsity Cross Country and Varsity Lacrosse teams at NCDS. She also plays club lacrosse for Mass Elite. She is involved in her school’s health science, yearbook, and running clubs. She has a passion for art and is currently studying 2D design. Megan also enjoys traveling. Over the summer, she traveled to Guatemala with School the World where she helped build a school for a community in need. Her favorite subjects are science and English. She plans to study science or nursing in college. 

Reflecting on Taylor’s Story: The Gripped Characters

Written by Kyle Banker, University of Miami

After reading the latest novel in Stacy Padula’s Gripped series, Kyle Banker was asked to share his opinion on some of the main characters.

Taylor

Taylor has dug himself into a deep hole within Bilotti’s drug dealing business. However, he is trying to get out of the gang and stay away from drugs altogether. As a result, my opinion of Taylor has been positively affected by Gripped 5 due to his mission to keep his family and friends safe. While he tries to avoid Bilotti’s men for his own sake, Taylor knows that his bad decisions have impacted countless people in Montgomery. So, I admire his unselfishness to focus on the bigger picture of keeping his family safe and out of the situation while also avoiding selling drugs rather than cashing out to pay for his tuition.

Jordan

I think Jordan has continued to be a role model for the Dunkin family, both academically and socially. He has stayed away from drugs, excelled in his classes at Notre Dame, and remains a top player in their football team. Even though Marc and Jordan do not get along very often, I consider Jordan to be one of the nicest characters in the series. After reading Gripped 5, I would not say that my opinion on Jordan was significantly altered. 

Marc

I believe that Marc had a much larger role in Gripped 5 compared to other novels in the series. Within the Dunkin family, he seemed to be Taylor’s primary line of communication. So, the reader is mostly in the perspective of Marc rather than Jordan or their parents in Gripped 5. Throughout the book, the reader is shown Marc’s compassion and care for Taylor’s situation. While I do not have strong opinions on Marc, I believe that Gripped 5 showed more of his personality than ever before.

Missy

Like Marc, I do not have many strong opinions on Missy. She seems to be similar to Cathy earlier in the series, where she is constantly partying and taking drugs. While Missy seems to be very kind towards Luke and Taylor, she could get in trouble with substances in the future. In the present, I appreciate her vibrancy, but I hope that Missy is not negatively impacted in the future.

Laurelle

Laurelle is a character that I do not feel strongly connected with, so I do not have many opinions on her personality. But, she seems to be a fun and lively character who closely connects with Pat. She also seems to be a huge partier and takes several substances. While I do not know much about her as a character yet, I hope that she will not go down a negative path with drugs in her life. 

Luke

I think Luke has almost completely isolated himself from drugs, which shows his tremendous character development. Considering his past life as a drug supplier earlier in the series, I believe Luke has taken a positive route in his life and is more cautious and communicative with his emotions. Although he questions his insecurities while dating Missy, I believe that Luke will be able to share his thoughts with her to ensure his mental health is positive. Overall, I like Luke as a character, and I hope that his healthy character development continues to grow.

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.

ABOUT KYLE BANKER

Kyle is a junior at University of Miami. He graduated in 2019 from Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He has been an intern for us since 2018. His favorite subjects include Biology, English, and Entrepreneurship. Some of his hobbies are playing soccer and hockey, volunteering, and being with friends and family. Kyle is studying Biological Sciences, while also pursuing his passions for writing and business.

Other Articles by Kyle:

Fiction Book Helps Teens Prepare for High School

Teen Novel about Addiction Provides Hope for Redemption and Recovery

Teen Novel Educates Kids About the Perils of Substance Abuse

Why Teens Want to Read The Right Person

A Must-Read Novel For All High School Students

Teen Book Series Educates Readers about Drug Abuse in a New Way

Why You Should Read the #1 New Release “Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told”

Kyle Banker on The “Gripped” Characters

A Teen’s Review of Gripped Part 1

Looking Ahead to Gripped Part 2 with Kyle Banker

What Should Readers Expect from Gripped Part 2 (To Be Released Later This Year)

May’s Q&A with Kyle Banker of Beaver Country Day School

Kyle Banker Reviews “The Right Person” by Stacy A. Padula – A Young Adult Novel

Teenage Author Isabelle Semas Recommends Y.A. Suspense Novel

Isabelle Semas

By Isabelle Semas, South Shore, Massachusetts

Taylor Dunkin, former football star, is attempting to escape the drug distributing ring he is entangled in.  His life has been ruined by addiction, and he is ready to change.  Just when Taylor begins to work with police, he goes missing.  As his family members and friends piece together clues on his whereabouts, Taylor’s own story is pieced together in front of the reader’s eyes.

Stacy Padula’s newest novel is full of drama, mystery, action, and most importantly, truth.  Gripped 5: Taylor’s Story depicts what actually happens behind the scenes of drug addiction, how it can change a person, and affect even their family and friends.  If you are looking for a book which will both engage and educate you, look no further than Gripped 5: Taylor’s Story.

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.

About Isabelle

Isabelle Semas is a 2021 homeschool graduate and best-selling author. She was inspired by her love of dystopian novels and her Christian faith to write her first book, The Crash, at the age of fifteen. The Crash was published by Briley & Baxter Publications in 2021. In Isabelle’s spare time, she sings in a christian band named NHB with her friends, is very involved in her church’s children’s ministry, and enjoys art.

More Articles by Isabelle

Y.A. Novel Demonstrates that Addiction Does Not Discriminate

Written by Maya Daly, Duxbury, Massachusetts

While some of the content in Gripped Part 2: Blindsided by Stacy Padula is more mature and perhaps not what school boards look for when selecting books for the classroom, it depicts a realistic and important story of teenagers, trying to find a balance between their morals and human nature.

Many of the teens in this book find themselves split between wanting to do something, such as engaging with their peers through drinking or other ways, but feeling that they cannot due to personal or religious morals. This is a common struggle that many teens find themselves in, and while finding a balance is not always an easy journey, it is an important part of this time in life, and learning how to stay true to yourself while also being able to engage in activities with your peers is a valuable lesson to learn at this age. 

This book is very eye opening on the topics of drug abuse, and sheds light on how this can impact anyone. In Blindsided characters from the previous book who had adamantly expressed their views against drugs have now lost these values, leading them down dangerous paths. This book shows how involving yourself in bad situations at an impressionable age can lead to bad decisions, even life-altering ones. Even those who would seemingly be the “least susceptible” are able to be roped into bad situations, leading to even worse consequences, showing how drug addiction does not discriminate, and anyone is at risk. 

However, hope is shown as some characters begin making better choices. In the 2nd “Gripped” book, we see protagonist Taylor Dunkin on a much better path. Taylor now seems to be much more level headed, as he tries to return to college and reconcile with some estranged family members. I feel that this book has made me gain more respect for Taylor, as I see that he is now making a great effort to reconnect with his family and make things right again. However, I do think that the next few books will open up a dangerous time for Taylor, as we see briefly with the police investigation into his drug dealing, and the other outside factors that could prove to be dangerous. 

After the last book, I felt that Chris Dunkin was an irresponsible, bad influence on many of the other characters. However, now I do see many redeeming qualities in Chris, and I feel a great amount of sympathy for his situation. Now, as he tries to get clean from drugs after a scary situation, I think that his future is looking much brighter—if he maintains a sober path.

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.

About Maya Daly

Maya is a junior 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. 

Alternating Storylines Maintain Suspense in “Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story”

Written by Kyle Banker, University of Miami

In Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story by Stacy Padula, I enjoyed the alternation between the storylines of Taylor and the Boston Police with Cathy and Chantal. I believe that this style worked best in Gripped 5 as Taylor’s situation kept its intensity as the reader was separated from it. Particularly, I believe although Cathy and Chantal’s storyline was meaningful, it was significantly less impactful than Taylor’s. Furthermore, it served as a cool down from the action-packed scenes in the club and Taylor’s trip to the remote location. I also appreciate that this writing style has been synonymous throughout the Gripped series, and both storylines progressed effectively to where each can take a massive step forward in Gripped 6. For Taylor, this would involve possibly being questioned by the BPD while being hunted by some in Bilotti’s gang. For Cathy, her next step may be to talk to Jason and see where their relationship stands. Either way, I have and continue to enjoy this writing style, which made Gripped 5 (and the entire series) fun and manageable to keep track of storylines. 

Looking Ahead…

I hope that Taylor finds his way out of trouble and works with the BPD to take down the Bilotti gang. Although I do like Donny as a character, I believe his family has caused unnecessary trouble in locations such as Elevate nightclub and around Montgomery. To do so, I believe that Taylor has to remain strong, work with Jimmy to ensure his safety, and continually watch his back.

After their conversation throughout Gripped 5, I hope that Cathy and Chantal become close friends like they were at the beginning of the series. The two stopped talking over a misunderstanding, and now that it is resolved, the two will hopefully become closer. This may take some significant time considering they did not speak consistently for about two years, so hopefully, they will build back their original bond.

I believe that Cathy and Jason need to meet face-to-face in Gripped 6 to discuss their relationship and where they stand. After this occurs, I hope that this communication will positively impact both of them and get their lives back on track. Cathy seems to be in a much darker place than Jason, so hopefully, he can influence her to follow a cleaner and more positive life. 

I hope that Luke will be able to help Taylor in any way possible in the future. He seems to be keeping the secret about Taylor’s drug dealing and has remained quiet to Missy, Pat, and Laurelle. Additionally, I hope that he figures out his relationship with Missy and does what truly makes him happy heading into college.

In Gripped 6, I am most curious to see Taylor’s situation with the BPD and the Bilotti’s. In my opinion, this intense sequence of events between these three parties is the center point of the Gripped series at this time. Taylor’s troubles also affect many more in Montgomery, such as his family (Marc, Jordan, parents), friends (Luke, Pat, Missy), and gang allies (Donny, Jimmy). As a result, I expect this storyline to continue ramping up in Gripped 6 and for more characters, old and new, to become involved in the situation. In the end, will Taylor be able to get himself out of trouble? That remains to be unknown, but readers may get that answer in Gripped 6.  

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.

ABOUT KYLE BANKER

Kyle is a junior at University of Miami. He graduated in 2019 from Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He has been an intern for us since 2018. His favorite subjects include Biology, English, and Entrepreneurship. Some of his hobbies are playing soccer and hockey, volunteering, and being with friends and family. Kyle is studying Biological Sciences, while also pursuing his passions for writing and business.

Other Articles by Kyle:

Fiction Book Helps Teens Prepare for High School

Teen Novel about Addiction Provides Hope for Redemption and Recovery

Teen Novel Educates Kids About the Perils of Substance Abuse

Why Teens Want to Read The Right Person

A Must-Read Novel For All High School Students

Teen Book Series Educates Readers about Drug Abuse in a New Way

Why You Should Read the #1 New Release “Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told”

Kyle Banker on The “Gripped” Characters

A Teen’s Review of Gripped Part 1

Looking Ahead to Gripped Part 2 with Kyle Banker

What Should Readers Expect from Gripped Part 2 (To Be Released Later This Year)

May’s Q&A with Kyle Banker of Beaver Country Day School

Kyle Banker Reviews “The Right Person” by Stacy A. Padula – A Young Adult Novel

Marshfield High School Graduate Recommends “Taylor’s Story” to Teens

Written by Sophia Coggeshall, South Bend, Indiana

“Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story” by Stacy Padula is a must read that will constantly keep you at the edge of your seat! The action-packed addition to the Gripped Series simultaneously focuses in on two main storylines: Taylor Dunkin’s conflict in getting out of a dangerous crime ring and the search for Missy Kent who abruptly vanishes out of everyone’s sight at a nightclub.

The Gripped Series as a whole is a perfect read for anyone interested in understanding the effects and consequences of substance abuse. It is truly an essential read for young adults to educate themselves on the dangers of peer pressure and addiction so that they know what to do and how to act if ever put in a difficult situation. In my opinion, this fifth book is one of the most engaging of the series, delving into the negative effects Taylor’s involvement in drugs has had not only on himself, but also on his friends and family.

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.

About Sophia

Sophia is a sophomore at University of Notre Dame and a graduate of Marshfield High School in Marshfield, Massachusetts. She is a competitive Irish Step dancer who has competed several times at the Regional, National, and World Championships, and she also played on the Varsity Field Hockey team for her high school.

More Articles by Sophia:

Sophia Coggeshall Reviews “Gripped Part 1” By Stacy A. Padula

Gripped on Gripped: Why Teens Will Love This New Book Series

Sophia Coggeshall Breaks Down the Gripped Characters

Marshfield Senior Recommends Teens Read New Novel About Addiction

New Teen Book Series’ Dynamic Characters Will Leave You Gripped

Blindsided Takes an Uncensored Look at Teen Substance Abuse & Its Effects on Relationships

“Taylor’s Story” Sets the Tone for an Exciting 6th Novel in Stacy Padula’s “Gripped” Series

Written by Kyle Banker, University of Miami

“Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story” by Stacy Padula is a book that displays the heavy consequences of substances to young adults in Montgomery. Part 5 of the Gripped series smoothly picks up the storylines from the previous novel, including the situations of Taylor and Cathy. In this novel, Taylor once again is at the center point as he attempts to bring his life back together by exiting the drug dealing business. However, many in the Bilotti gang are making that task difficult to achieve. Taylor’s storyline quickly picks up throughout the novel, leaving the reader on edge and wondering what will happen to him next. Across Montgomery, Chantal and Cathy speak for the first time in two years since Chantal’s breakup with Jon. After a lengthy conversation, both characters exchange information that they never expected to hear. As a result, both Chantal and Cathy need to analyze their next moves, both as a duo and involving others in Montgomery. By the end of the novel, many characters are in difficult situations that are yet to be solved, which sets up for an action-oriented sixth part of the Gripped series. 

This novel is an important and quick read targeted at high school seniors and college underclassmen. Additionally, I would recommend the book to adults who seek how drug problems can specifically affect teenagers and young adults. “Gripped Part 5” showcases the many consequences of taking drugs, including as far as your own life being taken from you. With “Gripped 5,” Padula hopes to influence all teenagers and young adults to avoid using drugs to prevent dangerous situations. The book serves not only as a form of education about where one can be exposed and offered drugs, but the drawbacks that result from accepting the offer and taking the pill.

In all, I rate Gripped 5 a 5/5 and would highly recommend reading it. I loved this book because although two main storylines were happening simultaneously, it was relatively easy to follow and see each scenario progress.

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.

ABOUT KYLE BANKER

Kyle is a junior at University of Miami. He graduated in 2019 from Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He has been an intern for us since 2018. His favorite subjects include Biology, English, and Entrepreneurship. Some of his hobbies are playing soccer and hockey, volunteering, and being with friends and family. Kyle is studying Biological Sciences, while also pursuing his passions for writing and business.

Other Articles by Kyle:

Fiction Book Helps Teens Prepare for High School

Teen Novel about Addiction Provides Hope for Redemption and Recovery

Teen Novel Educates Kids About the Perils of Substance Abuse

Why Teens Want to Read The Right Person

A Must-Read Novel For All High School Students

Teen Book Series Educates Readers about Drug Abuse in a New Way

Why You Should Read the #1 New Release “Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told”

Kyle Banker on The “Gripped” Characters

A Teen’s Review of Gripped Part 1

Looking Ahead to Gripped Part 2 with Kyle Banker

What Should Readers Expect from Gripped Part 2 (To Be Released Later This Year)

May’s Q&A with Kyle Banker of Beaver Country Day School

Kyle Banker Reviews “The Right Person” by Stacy A. Padula – A Young Adult Novel

Isabelle Semas on the “Gripped 5” Characters

Isabelle Semas

By Isabelle Semas, South Shore, Massachusetts

After reading Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story by Stacy Padula, teen best-selling author Isabelle Semas was asked to share how her opinion of the main characters has changed throughout the story.

Taylor

At first, I thought Taylor was an evil, heartless person.  As the series has gone on, I recognize Taylor is just a broken college kid whose dreams were crushed.  As more of his story is uncovered, the more pitiable he becomes.

Jordan

Earlier in the Gripped series, Jordan was made out by Marc to be a villain.  But as Jordan’s point of view begins to reveal his own side of the story, we learn none of Marc’s accusations are true.  Jordan is free-spirited, deep-thinking, and incredibly loyal.

Marc

In earlier books, I liked the character of Marc, and admired how much more responsible he was than his peers.  In Gripped 5 however, his character frustrated me.  His grudge against Jordan blinds him to reality and rationality.

Missy

My opinion on Missy has not changed much over the Gripped novels.  I find her character irresponsible and selfish.  She only wants to have fun, and rarely considers Luke’s feelings.

Laurelle

I thought Laurelle was just like her friend Missy, but I realize she is much more practical than her fun-loving friends.  She is smart, and more responsible than Missy.  However, I find the way she handles her undefined relationship with Pat foolish.

Luke

Earlier in the series, I saw Luke as irresponsible.  But in this book, I realize much of his motivation for partying and distributing drugs is to appease his girlfriend.  He is so afraid Missy will break up with him that he will do whatever it takes to keep her, even if that goes against what he knows is right.

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.

About Isabelle

Isabelle Semas is a 2021 homeschool graduate and best-selling author. She was inspired by her love of dystopian novels and her Christian faith to write her first book, The Crash, at the age of fifteen. The Crash was published by Briley & Baxter Publications in 2021. In Isabelle’s spare time, she sings in a christian band named NHB with her friends, is very involved in her church’s children’s ministry, and enjoys art.

More Articles by Isabelle

“Gripped 5: Taylor’s Story” Sends Imperative Message to Teen Readers

Written by Kyle Banker, University of Miami

As a junior in college, I believe that the topics covered in Stacy Padula’s Gripped 5: Taylor’s Story, including substance usage and purchasing, are becoming vastly more common across high schools and colleges in the United States. While many young adults feel it is simple to stay away from drugs, most are offered or asked to take a substance at some point in high school or college. Drug usage can rise either in a social environment to have more fun or to enhance one’s academic ability.  Furthermore, drug users can turn from a single experience into a daily dependency on a substance relatively quickly.

Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story features many substance abuse stories, including characters such as Taylor, Missy, and Laurelle. Specifically, experiences like those of Taylor can even result in participating in the drug-dealing side of substances, which leads to very tall consequences. Overall, all young adults should read Gripped Part 5 carefully and attempt to visualize how each character progressed into their current situation throughout the series. All characters in the book have been impacted by substances in some way, so observing and analyzing their choices can be a beneficial practice for your personal life outside of Montgomery.

I would recommend Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story by Stacy Padula to high school seniors and college underclassmen as this book revolves around the exposure of substances to young adults. Throughout the four-year gap between being a high school junior and a college sophomore, I believe that most teenagers will be introduced or exposed to drugs. Whether it is at a party, dorm room, or when walking around a city, there is little an individual can do to escape the exposure or substances, regardless of if they are tempted to pursue them or not. Based upon peer experiences and substance education, teenagers are made well-aware of the consequences that drugs have on an individual, no matter who they were before they began taking pills. Without these students understanding the impact of countless types of substances, they could be influenced in the wrong direction to try for fun and eventually become at risk of addiction. Nevertheless, Gripped Part 5 effectively shows the drawbacks of substances and how someone can get negatively tied up if they make one poor decision.

I believe that the main message that Gripped 5 displays to its readers is to treat exposures to drugs cautiously. These instances can happen in your personal life or your friend group, and it is crucial to try to avoid making tough decisions about substances. The reason for this is because once you start taking pills, it becomes difficult to get out if they are addictive substances. As a result, Gripped 5 makes its readers question whenever they are offered pills or see a friend taking drugs to make the best decision about how to handle the situation. By learning from characters in the novel like Taylor, readers will see how quickly and negatively substances can affect one’s present and future self.

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.

ABOUT KYLE BANKER

Kyle is a junior at University of Miami. He graduated in 2019 from Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He has been an intern for us since 2018. His favorite subjects include Biology, English, and Entrepreneurship. Some of his hobbies are playing soccer and hockey, volunteering, and being with friends and family. Kyle is studying Biological Sciences, while also pursuing his passions for writing and business.

Other Articles by Kyle:

Fiction Book Helps Teens Prepare for High School

Teen Novel about Addiction Provides Hope for Redemption and Recovery

Teen Novel Educates Kids About the Perils of Substance Abuse

Why Teens Want to Read The Right Person

A Must-Read Novel For All High School Students

Teen Book Series Educates Readers about Drug Abuse in a New Way

Why You Should Read the #1 New Release “Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told”

Kyle Banker on The “Gripped” Characters

A Teen’s Review of Gripped Part 1

Looking Ahead to Gripped Part 2 with Kyle Banker

What Should Readers Expect from Gripped Part 2 (To Be Released Later This Year)

May’s Q&A with Kyle Banker of Beaver Country Day School

Kyle Banker Reviews “The Right Person” by Stacy A. Padula – A Young Adult Novel

Mackenzie Wells on Stacy Padula’s “Gripped” Characters

By Mackenzie Wells, Athens, GA

After reading Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story, Mackenzie was asked to share her honest opinions of the characters and how they have changed since the beginning of the series.

Taylor

After reading Gripped 5, I think that Taylor is a really good kid who was dealt a bad hand and who let his circumstances get the best of him. I feel bad for him, because he did nothing wrong initially, but he has also let himself become a victim instead of taking advantage of the great opportunities he still had. At first, I thought Taylor was an entitled and slightly egotistical person who thought he could get away with anything, but now I see that this is not the case.

Jordan

After reading Gripped 5, I really appreciate how Jordan takes things seriously without looking to others for approval or even consent. I love how he is motivated by his own achievements rather than accolades of others. Initially, I thought that he was going to be an attention seeker, because he grew up in his brother’s shadow. However, the carefree attitude he has about getting attention is very refreshing.

Marc

I am somewhat disappointed in Marc and his stubbornness after reading Gripped 5. I used to think that he was the best of his brothers, but now I see that it is just him who sees himself that way. He is very prideful and stuck on his high horse. I hope that he grows in humility and understanding in the future.

Missy

Missy’s propensity to be high is starting to bother me. She is not the type of person I would want to be friends with, but I can also see that she is kind beneath her carefree exterior. I just think that she is selfish in the way she always worries about her own concerns and doesn’t take into account how her actions affect others.

Laurelle

I always found it strange that this apparently quite intelligent character had a ditzy best friend and allowed herself to risk her future by living a little on the wild side. Now I have a slightly better impression of her as I don’t think she is ever really the one instigating reckless behavior. I respect the fact that she tends to think about the consequences of her actions more than some of her friends.

Luke

While I feel bad for Luke, it is also so clear that he can take control of the social situation he is in. I always thought he was someone who could stand up to peer pressure, but I can see that he is really struggling with people-pleasing. It is different to see him so unsure of himself, but I hope he regains his confidence and self-worth.

Synopsis

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.

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie graduated in 2020 from the University of Georgia, majoring in English and public relations. She is a leader at the Wesley Foundation at UGA, the community outreach coordinator for UGA’s Undergraduate English Association, and a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Mackenzie has always had a passionate love for books and their ability to open doors to new worlds.

Articles by Mackenzie

Teen Novel Effectively Shows the Effort Needed to Overcome Addiction & Begin New Life

Written by Kyle Banker, University of Miami

Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors by Stacy Padula is a novel that showcases the evident consequences of substance to young adults in Montgomery. Part 4 of the Gripped series picks up the storylines effectively from the previous novel, including the situations of Taylor and Cathy. In this novel, Taylor is given the spotlight, as he attempts to bring his life back together by escaping the drug dealing business. However, through his high effort, he is struggling to get away from his current life.

Meanwhile, Cathy is seen enduring many problems with Jason, mostly to do with his active use of substances. Cathy attempts to help Jason overcome his addiction and truly become himself again, despite the many difficulties of their surrounding influences. By the end of the novel, all of these characters are seen in a very different position, good or bad, which sets up for an exciting fifth part of the series. 

This novel is an engaging and meaningful read, ideal for high school freshmen, while also being very applicable to adults wanting to know more about teenage drug abuse. Gripped Part 4 displays the many drawbacks of taking drugs, including losing friends, girlfriends, and your thoughts on your own life. As a result, Padula effectively shows the extreme efforts needed to begin overcoming an addiction in order to begin a new life; this is shown to be very hard to complete. This would hopefully influence all young adults to avoid using drugs in order to prevent going through this troublesome process, and to avoid losing the trust and relationships with loved ones and friends.

In all, I rate this book a 5/5 and would recommend reading it. I loved this book because although there were two main storylines occurring simultaneously, it was relatively easy to follow each character’s growth and progression.

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?

ABOUT KYLE BANKER

Kyle is a junior at University of Miami. He graduated in 2019 from Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He has been an intern for us since 2018. His favorite subjects include Biology, English, and Entrepreneurship. Some of his hobbies are playing soccer and hockey, volunteering, and being with friends and family. Kyle is studying Biological Sciences, while also pursuing his passions for writing and business.

Other Articles by Kyle:

Fiction Book Helps Teens Prepare for High School

Teen Novel about Addiction Provides Hope for Redemption and Recovery

Teen Novel Educates Kids About the Perils of Substance Abuse

Why Teens Want to Read The Right Person

A Must-Read Novel For All High School Students

Teen Book Series Educates Readers about Drug Abuse in a New Way

Why You Should Read the #1 New Release “Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told”

Kyle Banker on The “Gripped” Characters

A Teen’s Review of Gripped Part 1

Looking Ahead to Gripped Part 2 with Kyle Banker

What Should Readers Expect from Gripped Part 2 (To Be Released Later This Year)

May’s Q&A with Kyle Banker of Beaver Country Day School

Kyle Banker Reviews “The Right Person” by Stacy A. Padula – A Young Adult Novel

Oliver Ames ’21 Graduate Recommends Y.A. Novel to High Schoolers

By Emily Han, College of William & Mary

As a college freshman, I would recommend Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story by Stacy Padula to any teenagers who are about to or are going through high school. I would also recommend it to parents who have kids going through high school or college. This book approaches important topics about substance abuse, which many teenagers are not prepared for when going into social gatherings in high school and college. Many schools do not educate kids on the risks of substance, other than the bare minimum. Taylor’s Story sends the message that even less severe things, such as getting some drugs at a discounted rate for your friends, can lead you into a dangerous crime ring. It can lead you to have your life threatened. It also describes how substance abuse can make you forget who you are, and what you value most. While reading, I enjoyed how the two main storylines seemed separated at first, but connected to reveal everyone’s point of view and thoughts. 

In Gripped 6, I am most eager to discover what will happen with Taylor’s storyline. Will the Biolottis still come for his family, even though Jimmy’s plan was in action? Will his family sit back and let the investigation run its course, even though their son is in danger? I hope Taylor manages to get clean and out of the ring, without harming himself or those he cares about. I also hope he stops supplying to his town, and cleans up the mess he made there. I hope Cathy and Chantal can rekindle their friendship and realize that their bond and friendship bonds are better than any relationship they can be in. I hope Cathy and Jason do not get back together, since they’re obviously toxic. Even if they’re both clean, they started that way in their previous relationship and it still spiraled into problems for them. I think Cathy should move on, since she’s obviously too good for Jason. I also hope that Luke breaks up with Missy, since she, to me, looks like she’s taking advantage of him, and he’s definitely changed his morals and ideals since being with her. 

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.

About Emily Han

Emily Han graduated in 2021 from Oliver Ames High School in Easton, Massachusetts. She was the captain of her varsity field hockey team and a leader on her club team, Lead The Way. She was a member of National Honor Society and a founder of the PAWS Club and an active member of the Jimmy Fund Club. Emily now attends the College of William & Mary. She has a passion for environmental science and marine science. Her hobbies include scuba diving, exercising, and volunteering at local field hockey clinics and with Save The Bay.

More Articles by Emily:

Teens Relate to New Y.A. Book Series

Refreshing Y.A. Book Prepares Teens to Make Difficult Decisions

Emily Han on the “Gripped” Characters

Easton Teen Says Y.A. Novel Is Too Relevant To Be Ignored

Teen Fiction Novel Exposes Consequences of Substance Abuse