Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen 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.”
I’ve decided not to rate this book because honestly, how do you give a rating to such a dark and personal memoir? It’s also not a story that I’d apply the word enjoyable to, but it’s compelling and inspirational, and I think it’s an important one that people should read. Even before Straight Inc. got their hands on her, Cynde Etler’s childhood was not a happy one. Molested by her stepfather, neglected and ignored by her mother, by the time she’s fourteen, Cyndy is experimenting with alcohol and pot, making questionable relationship choices, and constantly running away and sleeping over at friends’ houses. After being placed in a nice foster care home for a brief time, she’s told by her family that she’s being sent to this wonderful boarding school, but instead is delivered into the hands of one of the most bizarre and abusive “tough love” programs that I’ve ever heard of. Cyndy relates what happened in the voice of the young teen she was, which gives the story even more of a raw, emotional narrative. The fact that she was trapped in this nightmare of abuse and brainwashing for over a year, is heartbreaking. I found myself having to take breaks from reading this because there were so many difficult moments. Yet at the same time I just had to keep reading because I wanted to–no needed to, know she persevered. My only criticism is that at the end of the book Cyndy winds up returning to her old high school, but it cuts off rather abruptly and I was left wanting more. However, the sequel, We Can’t Be Friends, is coming out in October so perhaps this is why. In the end while The Dead Inside is a tough read, it’s one I highly recommend for older teens and adults. While Straight Inc. was finally forced to shut its doors in 1993 after being supported by both the Reagan and Bush administrations, and was even visited by Princess Diana, there are still some programs in the troubled teen industry that use similar abusive practices. The only way to to affect permanent and positive change is through education and listening to courageous survivors like Cyndy Etler.