The Dead Inside : A True Story
by Cyndy Etler

Overview -

" An] unnerving and heartrending memoir..."-- Publishers Weekly

A fast-paced memoir that gives readers a glimpse into the unbelievable reality of a young girl's 16 months in the notorious "tough love" program the ACLU called "a concentration camp for throwaway kids."

I never was a badass. 

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    The Dead Inside (Paperback)
    Published: 2018-03-01
    Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

More About The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

" An] unnerving and heartrending memoir..."--Publishers Weekly

A fast-paced memoir that gives readers a glimpse into the unbelievable reality of a young girl's 16 months in the notorious "tough love" program the ACLU called "a concentration camp for throwaway kids."

I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi's jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.

From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was...well, it was something else.

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a "drug rehabilitation" facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to "treat" its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered "healing."

  • ISBN-13: 9781492635734
  • ISBN-10: 1492635731
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
  • Publish Date: April 2017
  • Page Count: 304
  • Reading Level: Ages 14-17
  • Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds

Related Categories

Books > > Social Topics - Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse
Books > > Drama
Books > > Social Topics - Depression & Mental Illness

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2017-01-30
  • Reviewer: Staff

Etlers unnerving and heartrending memoir begins in 1980s Connecticut when she was 13; Cyndys father died years earlier, leaving her in the care of her mother, whose second husband sexually abused Cyndy. When Cyndy began fighting back and attempting to escape, she fell in with a bad crowd from nearby Bridgeport. Choosing to enter foster care rather than live with her mother, Cyndy was eventually sent to Straight, Incorporated, an ostensible rehab program/boarding school where she spent more than a year being abused, bullied, and brainwashed into believing she was a drug addict. Given Etlers recounting of absurd and abusive scare tactics such as spit therapy, in which Straightlings are spit on by higher-ranking children, and carrying, in which newcomers are carted around by their belt loops and underwear, readers may be stunned that a place like Straight could exist, let alone that a parent would willingly send a child there. Details about the history of Straight, Inc., are included in an afterword, not seen by PW. Ages 14up. Agent: Myrsini Stephanides, Carol Mann Agency. (Apr.)

BookPage Reviews

Notes from the underground

Here’s the most terrifying fact about a cult: Nobody has any clue what’s happened, or is still happening, inside until someone finally escapes. With The Dead Inside, Cyndy Etler reveals that dark unknown from the inside out.

As a teenager, Etler was sexually abused by her stepfather. Rather than stop it, her mother simply turned a blind eye. However, what she did always seem to notice was 14-year-old Etler’s “dangerous” and “rebellious” behavior that resulted from this abuse. So when Etler finally found solace with a few friends who were into heavy metal and occasionally experimented with weed and beer, her mother tossed her into the den of another abuser: Straight, Inc.

Drawing from her own firsthand experience of surviving 16 months inside Straight—a supposed drug rehab facility for teens—Etler spares no details. She shows readers just how the program is designed to break down troubled teens, removing any sort of spirit, personality or individuality.

Etler’s tales of her months inside Straight are nearly impossible to believe. But in The Dead Inside, she tells them so matter-of-factly that her horrors will haunt you for years to come. And hopefully, they’ll also make you more compassionate toward a “troubled” teen.

This article was originally published in the April 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews