The ‘Gripped’ Characters: Q&A with Maya Daly on ‘Smoke & Mirrors’

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 Gripped Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors by Stacy Padula, Maya was asked to share her honest opinion about some of the main characters’ arcs. Her responses are below:

  1. Luke Davids: 

Originally, I feel that I judged Luke very incorrectly. Originally, I saw him as irresponsible and reckless with both his younger brother, Jason and Cathy’s lives, as he was providing them with dangerous drugs. However, in this book I see that he is much more responsible than he is given credit for, and is incorrectly judged by many. His concern for his brother’s life after he sees him spinning off the rails shows how he is much more concerned and responsible than he once seemed. 

  1. Jordan Dunkin: 

To me, Jordan seems to be another character who is misread consistently. While he is seen as the “partier” of the Dunkin family, and is commonly painted as the one who seems to be the most “off the rails,” it seems that he is really one of the more responsible ones. In college, he seems to be a much more goal oriented person, focusing mainly on his academics, sports, and his faith. Despite his “partier” reputation, it seems that he is truly one of the characters who is the most controlled in their relationship with drugs and alcohol. 

  1. Taylor Dunkin: 

Taylor seems to be someone who dug himself too deep in an effort to cope. Now, as we see Taylor more towards the beginning of his addiction, it seems that he had many other mental struggles at that time relating to his inability to get back into school and focus on football like he once wanted to do. His drug addiction proves that drugs can “grip” anyone, even a star athlete who no one ever would have expected to become dependent on prescription drugs can become “gripped,” as shown by Taylor. 

  1. Jason Davids: 

It seems now that Jason’s story shows many of the same similarities to Taylor’s. While Jason did not have his knee blown out, losing his relationship with his best friend of many years, Chris, sent him into a bad place, and in an effort to cope, he turned to drugs. He is also someone who many would never expect to be “gripped” by drugs, as he is a star student and athlete; however, it shows again that drugs can get to anyone. Jason seems to have become less and less true to the person he was at the beginning of the book, and he seems to have lost many of his morals. 

  1. Cathy Kagelli:

Cathy seems to have strayed from her morals more and more throughout the book. She has allowed herself to be persuaded into doing things that she otherwise never would have done (by Jason), and the more she does, the farther she seems to get from morals she once held. Though sometimes she takes a strong stance against the drugs Jason does, it seems that more often than not, he is able to persuade her to go against her better judgment and to try something she wouldn’t usually.

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

Nasin Groshek Reviews the Third Installment in Stacy Padula’s ‘Gripped’ Series

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.


Gripped Part 3: The Fallout by Stacy Padula and the entire book series is a must-read for teenagers and adults. The book examines the struggles of teenagers with substance abuse and their relationships with other teenagers and families. Adults and teenagers can learn from this book how teenagers can become involved with substance abuse very early.

Throughout the book series, we follow a cast of characters affected by substance abuse. These books examine in a realistic way how teenagers get involved with substance abuse and how it affects their relationships and aspirations. Some characters try to sober up and avoid bad influences, while others continue to spin out of control due to substance abuse.

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.

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

This Cautionary Tale about Drug Abuse is a Must-read for Teens

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 3: The Fallout, by Stacy Padula is a must read for everyone, especially teens.  When we learn in the beginning of the book that former star football player Taylor Dunkin is being heavily investigated for his compliance to deal drugs, we pray that the police with the help of Taylor’s brother, Marc, can save him.  In Montgomery drugs are becoming more prominent than ever before as Luke Davids helps deal to many of the incoming high schoolers.  On one night of a party, Chris and Jason trip on acid, ruining all of Chris’ progress and changing both of their lives severely.  Cathy Kagelli continues to struggle with her faith beliefs and her battle with substances, being poorly influenced by her best friend Lisa and her boyfriend Jason.  Normal kids are starting to become a mess.

The Montgomery drama will keep all readers on their toes immersing the reader into the scene.   Relationships are changing every day as substance abuse brings friends apart and creates gaps in friend groups.  The beginning of high school for these characters is eventful and teaches teens to be prepared for anything.  If we notice kids are using substances the book encourages us to confront them as their personality changes while taking drugs.  Overall, I would rate this book a 5/5.  The reason I enjoyed it so much was because I learned so much about how drug abuse starts, ways I can avoid it, and enjoy reading about drama.

Synopsis

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 Bella Gill on “The Truth We Never Told”

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 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy A. Padula, Bella was interviewed on her opinion of the main characters

Who do you most relate to and why?

I believe that, as the story goes on, I most relate to Alyssa. I feel like I have found myself in very similar situations to those that she has been in. Sometimes, rumors and lies can break up relationships and friendships and I feel like that happens frequently in my circle of friends. I can also relate to her issue of feeling uncomfortable when some of her friends are fighting. Just like Alyssa doesn’t like to pick sides in a fight between her friends, I too like to stay out of it. 

Who do you like and why? 

My favorite character is Cathy because of how genuine and loving she is. I enjoy how she makes everyone around her happy and fun. She is very protective and caring towards her sister Chantal and I admire how she stands by her no matter what. Lastly, I love how Cathy can make her own decisions at parties and is independent enough to overcome peer pressure.

Who do you feel bad for and why?

Personally, I feel bad for Jon. I feel this way because Jon has conflicting feelings throughout the book and has trouble deciding if he should listen to his friends or his conscience. He feels as if the only way he can deal with his arguments with Chantal is by drinking, and I pity him for that. I also feel sympathy for him due to the extreme amount of peer pressure that Chris and his friends place on him about drinking and smoking. 

Who frustrates you and why? 

Throughout the story, Jordan frustrates me because he is supposed to be a role model for the younger kids, but instead tends to act in a dangerous manner around them. It angers me that he truly cares about his younger family members and friends, but doesn’t take care of them at parties. Secondly, I do not like how he supplies Chris and the younger kids with alcohol, knowing they are underage and will not drink responsibly. 

Who do you hate and why?

As I read the story I began to grow a hatred for Chris Dunkin. I did not like the way he tried to pressure his friends into making poor decisions. I also was not a huge fan of his relationship with Lisa and wondered why he was so inclined to smoke and drink at parties.

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.

Y.A. Novel ‘Blindsided’ Exposes the Effects of Opioid Abuse on Teens

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. 


The drug use and sexual content in Gripped Part 2: Blindsided by Stacy Padula may get it banned from some schools, but the topics are too relevant in teenage culture to be ignored. I think this book should be read by students in middle and high school to prevent drug use before it happens. By being knowledgeable on the subjects and the consequences in these books, students will be more likely to steer away from drugs throughout their middle and high school years. Although it may be premature for some kids, it is also important to not hide these sensitive topics from them before it is too late. For those who are never surrounded by drugs, it is important for those students to know what goes on outside of their realm.

Through this book and the entire “Gripped” series, teens can learn the risk of drug use and what goes on behind closed doors. For those involved with drugs, they can further learn the harmful and addictive effects to motivate them to stop. For those not involved in drugs, it can educate them of what to avoid through the compelling stories of characters such as Taylor Dunkin, Chris Dunkin, Cathy Kagelli, and their friends.

From the beginning of the series to the end of Gripped Part 2, the protagonist Taylor Dunkin has drastically changed; however, he still has a long way to go. Although he has ended his drug use and is really trying his best to get his act together and continue playing football, he still has many relationships to repair. His work ethic and love for football is helping him to stay sober, but he would be doing himself a favor by going home for holidays and speaking with his brothers more. Getting sober is a very difficult task and Taylor seemed to do it with ease, however, he is not completely “sober” until he stops dealing to others.

In addition to Taylor’s story, which is the main focus of the “present-day” portion of the novel, the flashback focuses on his younger cousin Chris and his friends’ experiences with drugs such as molly, opiates, and benzos. At the beginning of the series, I did not think highly of Chris Dunkin because of his drug use, and I think he was not very good for his girlfriend Lisa. However, Chris has shown his effort to become better, and I think the ruin of his relationship with Lisa has helped him to improve. The night when he almost died was a crucial wakeup call for him, and I think he realizes that he was given another chance. Now that he is enjoying spending time with straight-edge Courtney Angeletti, he understands that he can enjoy life when he is sober and I think he has a better future ahead of him. However, if Chris is able to turn his life around and if he and Lisa really do enjoy being together, then I think they should reunite once Chris is able to fully prove that he is ready.

Another complicated relationship in the series is Cathy Kagelli and Jason Davids, which becomes a love triangle between Jason, Cathy, and Marc Dunkin (Taylor’s youngest brother). I am rooting for Cathy to end up with Jason because I think they really love each other. Although drugs have interfered, I think that they are good at communicating. In this book, Jason was very honest with Cathy about how her use of Xanax has destroyed her personality. Cathy was also very honest with Jason about how she doesn’t like him when he is stoned or tripping. Honesty and communication skills like this can take them a long way and help to repair their problems. I think that Marc is someone Cathy is using for a rebound and to distract herself from her feelings towards Jason. Cathy is my favorite character because I think it is interesting that she is so reserved but then sometimes openly shares her feelings, like her ranting conversation with Chantal. She also seems very intelligent and I hope that she stops using Xanax and cures her anxiety without drugs.

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 ‘The Truth We Never Told’

Written 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 Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula Olivia was interviewed about her opinion of some of the main characters.

  1. Who do you feel bad for and why?

I feel bad for Chantal because not only was she in a toxic relationship, but she lost the relationship with her sister because of it. I understand why she thought that Cathy broke up her and Jon’s relationship, but it hurts even more that it is not true. She has lost over two years of friendship and sisterhood with her sister because of a messy breakup, and her sister was only trying to support her. I feel bad because I can feel the regret and contemplations of what ifs that Chantal will now have to confront.

  1. Who frustrates you and why? 

I think that Taylor frustrates me the most because he was all about discouraging Chris and his friends using drugs and alcohol, yet he doesn’t follow his own advice. I am annoyed that he is a hypocrite, and especially that Chris saw Taylor do a line of coke. I just feel that by being a hypocrite, it’s almost reassuring Chris and his friends that it’s fine to do drugs, just as long as nobody knows about it.

  1. Who do you most relate to and why?

I relate most to Lisa because I am always perceived by my peers as cold when I meet someone new, but that just isn’t the case. I think that we both have a hard time expressing our emotions and not just using logic to guide our opinions and actions. I could tell I related to her strongly when she wanted to talk to Cathy, but Cathy thought Lisa hated her; this has happened to me so many times.

  1. Who do you like and why?

I like Jason because I think that he is a very supportive person concerning Cathy. I like that he matches Cathy’s energy and never put pressure on her to form a relationship. I just like Jason’s approach to letting things happen organically with Cathy, and I think that, at least thus far, has been a good influence on Cathy.

  1. Who do you hate and why?

Jordan—I don’t know if I hate him, but I just hate what he’s done. I think that by allowing Chris and his friends to smoke and drink, he has definitely instigated their dependence on substances. He does seem like a nice guy though by offering to drive Cathy home, but he certainly shouldn’t be encouraging middle schoolers to drink and do drugs.

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 Gripped Characters: Q&A with Deirdre Mitchell on ‘The Truth We Never Told’

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.


After reading Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula, Deirdre was asked a series of questions about the main characters.


Who do you most relate to and why?

The character I relate to the most is Cathy. I relate to Cathy the most because at the beginning of the book she feels very insecure, not having a group of friends. I relate to this because I had to move cities in high school and I, too, felt very insecure starting a new school without a group of friends. 

Who do you feel bad for and why?

The character I feel bad for is Taylor. He got caught up in being at the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result, he lost his commitment to Notre Dame for football. To make the situation even worse, his brother Jordan received a commitment which made it even more difficult for Taylor to move forward. 

Who frustrates you and why? 

The character that most frustrates me is Jordan because he is a bad influence on his younger cousin, Chris. When Chris’ parents are away, Jordan hosts parties at Chris’ house which exposes his young cousin to inappropriate substances, which could negatively influence Chris leading him onto a dark path.  

Who do you like and why? 

The character I like the most is Marc. I like Marc because he has shown interest in helping Taylor get over his drug problem. Also, I think Marc is a great influence on Chris because he never wants to expose Chris to drugs and alcohol like his brothers do. These two examples show that Chris cares a lot about family, which is why I like him.  

Who do you hate and why?

The character I don’t like is Taylor because I think he is selfish. One reason I think Taylor is selfish is because he can see how his drug abuse is hurting his relationship with his family, but he doesn’t seem to care. Another reason I think Taylor is selfish is because he used Chris’ house as a party house, which exposed Chris to drugs. Unlike Marc, Taylor does not seem to care about his family, which is why I don’t like him.   

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.

New Edition of ‘The Right Person’ by Stacy A. Padula – Coming This Month!

Next month, we will be releasing the 3rd edition of Stacy Padula’s very first book, Montgomery Lake High #1: The Right Person. Below is its Preface.


Preface

I was thirteen years old when I wrote the first draft of The Right Person. After being assigned a project on peer pressure in my eighth-grade health class, I decided to write this book, shocking my teacher when I handed in a ninety-page “essay.”

At that moment, I had no idea that the Montgomery Lake High characters would remain a part of my life for years to come. What I did know, however, was that there was a need for realistic teen books—books that depict the social struggles of adolescence, books that aren’t afraid to address drug abuse, sex, and moral convictions, books that would help prepare kids for the social battleground that is high school. I had searched high and low for books like that, and no matter how many I read, nothing prepared me for what I faced as a teenager. So, I kept writing until I had completed the first drafts of three of the Montgomery Lake High books before graduating high school.

After college, I stumbled upon my drafts of The Right Person, When Darkness Tries to Hide, and The Forces Within. Deciding the books could possibly help kids socially prepare for high school, I completed the series and sought a literary agent. From 2010-2014, the first editions of all five Montgomery Lake High books were published. When Barnes & Noble chose me as a featured author for its Teen Book Festival in 2016, I was in awe that the stories I wrote as a teenager were being embraced by strangers and sold in a mainstream bookstore.

This version you are now reading is the third edition of The Right Person. Minor updates have been made over the years, but the heart of the story has remained the same. As the author of thirteen books and the founder of a publishing company, it is tempting to edit this book to include my professional writer’s voice, but the power of this novel rests in that it was written by someone right in the midst of adolescence. Its teenage writing style is something it cannot lose without losing its intended purpose.

Sincerely,
Stacy A. Padula

Stay Tuned for Release Date

‘Gripped 3: The Fallout’ by Stacy Padula Teaches Teen Readers about Recovery

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. 


In Gripped Part 3: The Fallout by Stacy Padula, readers can learn that if we are naive and get deep into drug abuse, there is still a way out. 

Except for that one night when Jason and Chris tripped on acid, Chris had been doing an excellent job recovering from his prior drug use.That one night when he tripped shows readers how strong we have to be if we are tempted with a situation like that.  Sometimes we have to completely avoid the situation if we can’t handle it, which Chris does at the end of the book by not going to the party at Jason’s.

Out of all the Gripped characters, Chris intrigues me the most because I really think it’s cool how much he has changed since his earlier drug abuse.  I find it extremely interesting the ways he is trying to avoid drug abuse.  The fact that he was willing to cut his best friend Jason out of his life and become the girlfriend of one his best friend’s ex was crazy.  Seeing Chris make decisions like this shows how serious he is to stay sober and cutting someone like Jason out of his life is very surprising given how social a person Chris is.  I also think Jordan seems to be becoming a pretty solid person since he has gone to play football at Notre Dame.  He is now a starter on the team and he doesn’t really use drugs anymore because he realizes how messed up football and school would be if he took drugs.  He has always been a pretty nice person in my opinion ever since he helped Cathy Kagelli at a party that one night in part 1.  This shows me his personality is very kind hearted although he is the life of the party. 

Through the characters’ journeys in Gripped Part 3: The Fallout, readers see that one reason some people begin using drugs is because of peer pressure.  The idea that all my friends are doing this so maybe I should too is very prominent.  This is why drugs spread so quickly through Montgomery because Luke knows everyone.  He spreads drugs to whoever and they spread it to more people and so on.  Another reason using drugs starts is because of a mental-health problem.  For example, Cathy has anxiety attacks, but Xanax calms her down so she takes it; Taylor is depressed about his injury so he misuses his pain medication to elevate his mood. However, through characters such as Chris and Jordan, readers learn that it is possible to escape from temptation and rebuild your life.

Synopsis

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.

An Interview with Maya Daly on Y.A. Novel “Smoke & Mirrors”

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 4: Smoke & Mirrors, Maya was asked to give her opinion as a teen reader on the plot, characters, and messages in the story. Her interview is below…

  1. Who would you recommend this book to and why?

I would recommend this book to all teens. This book takes a unique look into the lives of teenagers, showing the perspective of drugs and alcohol abuse from the lense of teens who have found themselves “gripped” by these substances. Seeing the progression of these teens as they fall deeper into the hole of drug abuse throughout the series shows how vulnerable everyone is to drugs, no matter who they are. With many characters, all on different journeys, each character is relatable for different reasons, and there is someone for everyone to relate to. 

  1. Why do you feel the topics covered in the book are relevant for teenagers?

The topics discussed in this book are highly relevant for teenagers to be reading. With the continued discussion of alcohol and drug addiction, The “Gripped” series shows a realistic portrayal of teens and the trouble that they can easily get themselves into. The book clearly shows that drug addiction is a slippery slope, and carelessly trying something can easily turn into addiction. Reading this series puts the real danger of drug addiction into perspective, and shows that it can impact anyone, and no one is “safe” from it. 

  1. Why should parents read this book?

Parents should read this book because of the main plotline. In many of the situations in this book, the parents seem to be left in the dark with the dangerous activities their children are involving themselves in. Reading this book gives parents a “inside look” into what teens may be getting themselves into, and how they can help. For example, in this book, when Alyssa’s parents come down hard on her after they hear about the drugs and alcohol distributed at a party, giving her frequent drug tests, and other parents follow suit, none of the children respond well to this. In fact, it just pushes them farther into secrecy. For parents, reading this book shows how to go about helping their children and knowing the signs of possible drug or alcohol abuse. 

  1. At this point in the story, what are you most curious to uncover in Gripped 5?

In Gripped 5, I am looking forward to seeing more about Jordan and Taylor. So far, while both of their stories have been alluded to, I feel that many details still remain unknown, and I am curious to see a closer view. I think that the story with Taylor’s drug addiction and possible run in with the police and mafia members will be shown more in the next book, and I am very interested in hearing more about it. 

  1. What did you like best about this book/what kept you wanting to turn the page?

In this book, one of the things I found to be the most interesting was seeing the various teen dynamics, and the drama that came due to these. With Cathy and Jason, one of the main couples in the book, we see Jason’s drug abuse spiral out of control, sending Cathy down into a bad place with it. Seeing the way that this couple has become intertwined to the point where they both can have either such a positive or negative impact on one another speaks highly to the way that drugs can create such a toxic situation. Overall, seeing the dynamics and the continued drama throughout the book made for a very engaging storyline, making this book hard to put down. 

  1. What did you like about the writing style/setup of the story?

One of the things that I really liked about this book was the way that the storylines continued on throughout chapters. I felt that the way that the chapters were broken up made the story even more engaging and interesting, and kept me wanting to read more and more. Also, the way that in the beginning the story gives us a glimpse into the present time, showing us snippets of Taylor’s current situation gives a good level of foreshadowing to keep readers engaged and wanting to know more about everything that happened in the months leading up to the present day.

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

Key Relationships Become Even More Complex in ‘Gripped Part 2: Blindsided’

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 2: Blindsided by Stacy Padula reveals the way that drugs can take over the life of young kids and impact their relationships. The story starts by reintroducing Taylor Dunkin’s struggles with drug addiction and how it has affected his successful football career. However, his brother Marc, whom he is not on good terms with, has learned that Taylor is under investigation and must go to his house to deliver him a message. Meanwhile, on Taylor’s path to recovery, he continues to deal drugs even if he is not using them. The problem is that he is dealing drugs to Marc’s friend without him having any idea. This forces Marc’s girlfriend and his best friend to keep this a big secret from him. 

Meanwhile, Lisa has her first experience with drugs and falls back into her old relationship with Chris. Chris has one unforgettable night that ends with him in the hospital and then he decides to end his relationship with Lisa to work on himself. Chris starts to distract himself with someone new, which is a very tangled web. Also, Cathy and Jason are falling deeper into their addictions, which ignites problems between them. The story leaves us to wonder how drugs will affect these relationships in the future. I can’t wait to read Gripped Part 3: The Fallout to find out!

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.

Q&A with Plymouth North’s Julia Trenholm on “The Truth We Never Told”

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.


After reading Stacy Padula’s Y.A. novel, Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told, Julia was asked a series of questions about her opinion on certain characters, the plot line, and the messages in the book.

Who would you recommend Gripped Part 1 to and why?  

I would recommend Gripped Part 1 to anyone but particularly middle school students and high school students. This is because the storyline is quite relatable to students, as kids tend to encounter peer pressure, self pressure, and trying new rebellious things. Reading this book will teach young students how to deal with these situations and stay true to themselves when faced with this position.

How do you as a young adult relate to the story? 

As a young adult, I can relate to this story because throughout my teen years I have been involved in a lot of different social situations and had to learn how to navigate through them. What was most hard for me was growing up with friends and watching them drift away and starting to surround themselves with new people and drugs. It was upsetting seeing the person I once knew and loved was destroyed because of these substances taking over them. 

What did you like best about the story?

What I liked best about this story is it has such a great plot that pulls you right into the story, making you feel you are truly part of the book. The storyline is also very engaging and you get to know each character personally. I loved that there were always a few situations happening at a time, such as Taylors drug problem involving the police, Cathy and Jason’s romantic relationship, and Jon and Chantals toxic and complicated relationship. All of these circumstances keep you on your toes while reading.

What message does this book send to readers?

The main message that this book sends to readers is the outcomes that drug addiction can take you into. As well as  you need to educate and think before putting yourself in a situation there could be no turning back from. This story also educates readers on the importance of discussing drugs and substances, which is a topic that isn’t taught about as much as it should be.

About the characters…

Who do you feel bad for and why?

I feel most bad for Taylor. This is because Taylor went from being a successful student and football star to being a drug dealer and user. He didn’t realize how relient he was on these drugs and dangerous substances. He snapped  into reality once he saw how his younger cousin Chris and his friends were affected by it. This showed him how addicted he really was which was devastating, but it made him determined to escape from the addiction and better his life for not only himself but for others around him.

Who frustrates you and why? 

The character who most frustrates me is Jon. This is because Jon can be self centered and doesn’t know how to be self advocating. Whenever he has troubles, his friends want to help him but he won’t allow them to as he suffers from the drama he created. He also is a follower not a leader. He lets Chris and his friends determine the decisions he makes, resulting in consequences. 

Who do you like and why?

I really like Cathy because she is genuine and a very caring person. We can tell she loves her family, especially his sister Chantal who is her twin. We have seen this throughout the story as she always puts her sister before herself, and does everything she can to help her sister navigate through her tough relationship with Jon. She always wants to make sure her sister is happy and making the best decisions for herself. Who do you hate and why?

There are a few different storylines running through Gripped Part 1 because it is setting up the rest of the series. What storyline do you find the most interesting and why?

I find the relationship between Cathy and Jason most interesting. This is because they have similar personality types, which contributes to them having such compatibility between each other. They are alike, yet so different and they know to balance each other out and be there for the other when one needs support. The tension between them makes the relationship much more intriguing, as they learn more about each other.

Gripped Part 1 sets up the rest of the series but leaves a lot of things “hanging.” What are you most curious to uncover by reading Gripped Part 2?

I think I am curious to uncover how Chantal goes about pursuing her relationship with Andy, her former ex-boyfriend, or Jon, her most recent ex-boyfriend. She realized overtime she didn’t like the way Jon was acting and treating her because of him doing drugs behind her back, lying, and hanging with his girl best friend Alyssa more than her. This led her to start talking to Andy again, but the situation behind Jon may not have been as it seems to be.

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.

Not Just for Young Adults: ‘The Fallout’ Will Hit Home with People of All Ages

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 third book in Stacy Padula’s “Gripped” series is filled with entertaining plot lines and life lessons for people of all ages. Tweens and teens can learn from reading Gripped Part 3: The Fallout that surrounding yourself with positive influences in your life as opposed to bad influences can help you achieve your goals and dreams. Bad influences can result in tweens and teens getting deeper and deeper into substance abuse, which can adversely affect relationships, goals, and dreams. If a teen or tween is, unfortunately, engaging in substance abuse, the teen or tween may have to break away from those friends who are a bad influence in an effort to sober up. Adul​​ts can benefit from reading Gripped Part 3 since they will become aware that substance abuse can start at an early age. Many adults may be misinformed in thinking that substance abuse or experimentation with drugs and alcohol is not an issue until high school. Adults may also learn that drugs and alcohol are readily available to teens and tweens who want to experiment or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

This book and the series teaches readers that people can begin using drugs for various reasons. For example, Chris began using drugs since he believes that his parents do not love him and Cathy began using drugs to self-medicate due to the anxiety she was experiencing from her fractured relationship with her twin sister Chantal. Taylor became addicted to drugs due to a sports injury and depression. Other characters in the book series also use drugs due to peer pressure. Readers can benefit from reading about Chris’s journey since they can understand the reasons for Chris’s partying and experimenting with drugs, the consequences of such substance abuse on his relationships, and his efforts now to sober up. We learn early in the book that Chris started partying and experimenting with drugs since he believes his parents do not love him. In Gripped Part 2, the relationship between Chris and Lisa was destroyed due to substance abuse. Now in Gripped Part 3 Chris attempts to separate from bad influences such as Jason to sober up. I am most intrigued by Chris Dunkin at this point in the series. I am interested to learn whether Chris is successful in his efforts toward living a clean lifestyle by surrounding himself with positive influences. I am also interested in learning how Chris’s relationship with Jason, Lisa, and other friends will evolve. The most intriguing storyline in Gripped Part 3 is the separation of Chris from his best friend, Jason. Chris realizes that Jason is a bad influence when Jason convinces Chris to take acid during the party the night before his first year of high school. Chris realizes he is weak and that bad influences like Jason can jeopardize his efforts toward living a clean lifestyle and avoiding drugs and alcohol.

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.

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 ‘Blindsided’

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 2: Blindsided by Stacy A. Padula, Timmy was asked to share his honest opinion on the characters.

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

In the beginning of the series I mostly thought good things about Taylor even though I knew he was in a deep hole with drugs.  I thought he was super nice to people at the parties at Chris’ house and always looking out for people to make sure they were ok.  He always was a great kid.  Now I just feel really bad for Taylor because I know how good of a person he was and still is, but you can tell he regrets so much.  At the end of part 2 talking to Michelle and Katie we see his concern for Jordan and Marc’s relationship, showing how caring of a person he still is.  All of his great traits are still there and I’m happy he wants to get out of the drug business, making me feel bad that he can’t yet.

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

In part 1 Chris was not one of my favorite characters.  I thought he was wrong to push so many people to drink and he was wrong for drinking at such a young age.  These bad decisions defined his character for me despite his always caring friendship with everyone.  In part 2 I was surprised how deep into drugs he was without even realizing and I really just was mad at him for doing all these things.  Then also pushing people to try drugs was worse.  However, I felt very proud of him towards the end of part 2 because he really is trying to turn his life around.  I think his character development in part 3 will be very interesting to see given how naturally caring of a person he is.

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

This is a tough question because I love Marc and think that he is a great guy.  He clearly would treat Cathy well and keep her out of trouble, but for some reason I still want Jason and Cathy to be together.  In part 1 the way their relationship started seemed so natural and that it was a such a good fit between the two of them so i feel like that connection should come back.  At the end of part 2 Jason and Cathy admitted their faults using drugs with each other and it showed how much trust and care they had for each other.  It was a great moment of their love even though Cathy and Jason had changed since they first met.  Overall, I hope Cathy ends up with Jason because they are meant to be with each other as long as drugs don’t mess them up.

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

I think that it was good for them to break up because they both need to figure some things out and can be bad influences on each other for some reason.  It is hard to say that though because they have a great relationship with each other since they clearly love each other enough to break up for the better of themselves.  I respect Chris a lot for realizing he needed to break up with Lisa to help himself.

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

Chris and Marc.  I was very mad at Chris when he was using bad drugs and almost died one night.  However, I really respect everything that he is doing to make a change to his behavior.  He also is still an extremely nice person to everyone when he isn’t on drugs and forcing people to do stuff.  Marc is my other favorite character because of how mature and professional he is about everything.  He clearly cares a ton about football and does whatever he can to give himself an advantage against his competition, leading to his commitment to BC.  Although he can easily get mad and upset with people like he did with both of his brothers, it is only because he cares about both of them so much.  When given the opportunity to help Taylor he was immediate to go to action at the end of the book.

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.

Relatable Y.A. Novel Accurately Depicts the Social Struggles of High School

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. 


As a junior in high school, I would recommend Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula to teenagers who are interested in hearing stories about other fellow middle and high school students. I think this story could be both riveting and informative to students who are surrounded by similar issues involving substance abuse. This narrative is comprised of both modern and realistic parts, that I believe teens and young adults may relate to and enjoy. As a young adult I can relate to the story because in my own high school there have been problems with drug use. I can also connect my personal experiences to the position that Cathy and Jon are put in when it comes to wanting to be liked, but having to make the right decision and stay away from alcohol and other substances. 

What I really enjoyed most about the story was how it flashed back in time to reveal details of Cathy and Chantal’s relationship and how the sisters grew apart. I also really liked that the book hinted at the idea that Jason’s influence caused Cathy to get involved in dangerous activities, but did not specify how or why. I enjoyed this because it made me want to read the next books to find out what really happened between them. 

Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told sends the message to readers that drugs and alcohol can be very addictive and therefore can harm or even destroy your life. It teaches people that substances can cause you to lose the support of friends, family, and force you to ruin opportunities that you once could have had.

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.

Award-winning Y.A. Crime Novel Educates Teens on the Opioid Crisis

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. 


The latest addition to Stacy Padula’s Gripped series, “Gripped Part 5: Taylor’s Story” brings suspense and drama to the ongoing story of the many teens and young adults in Montgomery Lake.

Filled with action, the storyline centers around Taylor Dunkin, a former football star who found himself entangled with serious drugs and an even more dangerous gang, on his journey to try to find his way again. Despite Taylor’s efforts, his journey is not as easy as he had hoped, as he now has to deal with the mess that has been created. Along with Taylor, this story brings us a long awaited reunion between sisters, Cathy and Chantal Kagelli, after nearly two years of barely speaking. With unraveling drama going on around the two, they have a lot to discuss. Now, with the two of them back in each other’s lives, they both try to plan and move forward to a better and healthier future in high school. 

This book combines both the drama of high school with danger of organized crime and drug dealing, making for a thrilling story.  Not only does this book prove to be an engaging page-turner, it also provides an important message on the very real dangers of drug abuse, making this a must read for all audiences. Overall, the Gripped Series shows how drug and substance abuse can impact anyone, and it shows how far this impact stretches, even after someone may be done with drugs. After reading this book, I would rate it 5/5 stars due to the exciting nature of the story in combination with the important message it portrays throughout.

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.

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

The Gripped Characters: Q&A with Sarah Parrish on “The Truth We Never Told”

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. 


After reading Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy A. Padula, Sarah was interviewed about her thoughts on the main characters.

  1. Who do you feel bad for and why?

I feel bad for Chantal because her relationship with Jon was so suddenly ripped apart. She was rightly so, sticking up for what she believes in, which is Jon not drinking. Although she may have exaggerated, her intentions were only to prevent her boyfriend from making poor decisions and her resistance towards him led to unjust repercussions. In addition, her sister was then keeping secrets from her. Although it was in her best interest, it is important to know the real reason why her ex-boyfriend ended things abruptly.

  1. Who frustrates you and why? 

Jon frustrates me because he treated Chantal very poorly. It seems as if the respect in their relationship was not mutual and that he should have been much more attentive to her feelings and wishes. It also frustrates me that when things became hard between them, he used the flight method and started spending more time with Chantal’s best friend rather than trying to ameliorate his relationship with his current girlfriend which I see as an indicator to his immature nature.

  1. Who do you most relate to and why?

I relate most to Cathy. There are instances throughout the story where she is very conflicted and although it may seem that she is doing the wrong thing, you can tell that her head is always in the right place and she is very conscious of her decisions. I believe I am that way as well. For example, when her theory of Jon mistaking her voice for Chantal’s was proven true, she was very indecisive of whether to tell Chantal the truth or not. It was very clear that she was thoroughly thinking through her options and considering each of their repercussions. Another instance that I noticed this about Cathy was when Lisa had told her brother to pick them up from the party in the morning rather than the night prior. 

  1. Who do you like and why? 

I really like Jason because I think he is a good and stable character. He treats Cathy very well and I am excited to see what happens in the future of their relationship. Although many people have negative opinions about him, I think he will be able to reverse his reputation because he really cares about Cathy and wants to treat her right.

  1. Who do you hate and why?

I don’t really hate any characters, although there are some that have noticeable flaws and wrongdoings such as Jon, I believe that they all have their own reasons for their actions and are often misunderstood. For example, Jon hanging out with Alyssa and breaking up with Chantal would be told completely differently from his point of view rather than Chantal’s. Also, Chantal makes Cathy out to be a devil but Cathy has her reasons for keeping a secret from Chantal. 

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.

Y.A. Novel Socially Prepares Teens for High School and College

Written 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. 


As a senior in high school, I would recommend Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy A. Padula to any middle or high schooler who seeks to understand the environment that is evolving around them: adolescence. Gripped Part 1 deals with mature topics, yet provides an accessibility to teenagehood that is digestible for young adults. Through gaining insight into the opportunities that may be provided to them in the near future, young adults will be prepared for how they want to interact with their peers in order to make a decision that aligns with their values, escaping rash decisions with the potential to consume their lives. As a young adult, I relate to having to face the pressures of being surrounded by peers who participate in substance abuse and the choke hold it has on some of them. I watch as their lives become all-consumed by their addiction, and everything they do is in pursuit to satisfy it. I find myself holding similar sentiments to Marc: wanting the best for my friends, but feeling helpless in ensuring that they make positive choices.

This book sends readers the message to make decisions that will set up their futures for success, which means avoiding the potential dangers of substance abuse. As the plot unfolds, it elicits an urge to stick to one’s values, yet the book really expresses how difficult it is to escape the burden of peer pressure. The book makes an attempt to guide readers through interpersonal conflict while also providing a level of understanding and support, encouraging them to discern what is best for themselves. I really liked the pace of the book – the quickness just felt right, like a fever dream. I think the pace reflected how fast situations can escalate, and the importance of not making decisions, like drinking or doing drugs, without understanding the impact it could have on one’s future. Especially during the chapters when they are at Chris’s house for parties, the characters begin to spiral quickly, which demonstrates the risks of drugs and alcohol.

I find the storyline between Cathy and Chantal most interesting because they used to be so close, and I now have read the reasons why they no longer are speaking to each other. I think it’s even more interesting now that Chantal knows that Cathy didn’t break up her and Jon. I really liked their dynamics at the beginning of the flashback, being so supportive of each other allowed me to feel like I was learning about not only their relationship as sisters, but as friends too. I am also excited for the situation involving Taylor and the police to unfold. I think that it will really express how difficult it is to get out of drug culture, even when someone is in recovery. I love a crime thriller, and I have a feeling that Gripped Part 2  will develop a plot centering around it not be as easy as the detectives initially thought to take down the crime ring.

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.

Debut Novel in YA Series Paints Realistic Picture of Teen Culture

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.


As a junior in high school, I recommend Gripped Part 1: The Truth We Never Told by Stacy Padula to late middle-school and high school aged teens. I believe most kids within this age group struggle with how to handle failure and disappointment. Gripped Part 1 tells the story of Taylor and his struggle with depression due to a bad knee injury. Taylor makes the terrible mistake of turning to drugs as a way to deal with his problems. As a young adult, I relate to this story because I am very aware of the peer pressure and the access some high school students have to drugs. I have heard of kids attending parties and experimenting with different substances. Although I have never personally been in that situation myself, kids my age are tempted to follow others in order to fit in. Since they do not have any prior experience with drugs, they do not understand the negative consequences and impact of their actions. Gripped Part 1 teaches the reader the dangers of taking these substances, which I know I will never do. The message this book sends to readers is how easy it is to fall into substance abuse. I believe most people my age do not realize how addictive drugs and alcohol can be, so they think experimenting will not be harmful. However, Gripped Part 1 shows that people can get hooked on drugs even if you only take it only a couple of times. Another important message is how taking drugs can damage relationships for example how Taylor lost his family’s trust. 

My favorite part of the story was the start of Cathy and Jason’s relationship. Initially, Jason has a poor reputation with girls and is considered a “player”. Since he cared for Cathy, he talked with her to explain his reputation and changed for her, which I thought was a very mature thing for a middle school boy to do. I think the storyline that is most interesting is Cathy and Chantal. Cathy and Chantal’s relationship is interesting because Chantal was the popular twin, while Cathy was the twin who did not have that many friends. Somehow, the roles switch and we see that the two sisters stop speaking to one another. The plot I am most interested to uncover is the police case with Taylor. I’m most interested in this plot line because Marc was put in charge of giving Taylor the cell phone and I would like to see how Marc tells Taylor about the investigation. Also, I am interested to see how Taylor deals with the situation and if he gets out of trouble or not. 

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.

St. Sebastian’s Senior Calls Stacy Padula’s Gripped Part 2: Blindsided a “Must Read”

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 2: Blindsided, by Stacy Padula is a must read for all middle schoolers, teens and adults.  In this book of the series we see the start of many characters’ drug addictions.  Some turn from alcohol to drugs and some from nothing to drugs, causing serious problems for many of the characters. Relationships are ruined, people change, and friend circles continuously differ.  Cathy and Jason lean on each other for help, but the deeper they get into drugs, the harder it gets.  Chris Dunkin wakes up one morning after a party, forgetting everything that happened and Taylor sustains a serious football injury, changing his habits severely.

The constant talk of drug use among the characters is sure to teach kids how to say no when offered substances.  They will learn how kids can easily pressure them into trying things, but through strong, mature characters, like Marc and Courtney, they will see the stupidity of it.  This book is perfect for readers who enjoy lots of drama as each page offers a new dilemma.  Overall, this book is a fantastic read and I rate it a 5/5.  I loved this book so much because I related to the characters and was shocked how people so similar to me could make such bad decisions.

Synopsis

Now being adapted for TV!

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.