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The Dead Inside

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  722 ratings  ·  162 reviews
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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire (first published June 22nd 2012)
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Cyndy Etler If I may speak for all of us who were locked up in these torture chambers, thank you. For being aware, for caring. Every Vietnam vet I've known refuse…moreIf I may speak for all of us who were locked up in these torture chambers, thank you. For being aware, for caring. Every Vietnam vet I've known refuses to speak about their experiences in the war,'s unspeakable. Most program survivors live under that same gag order. Your researching the programs and seeking to understand is the validation most of us can't ask for.

All that said: thank you for your question! STRAIGHTLING and THE DEAD INSIDE are different forms of the same book. The difference is, THE DEAD INSIDE was professionally edited, and some new material--most notably a history of Straight Inc--has been added.

The sequel to THE DEAD INSIDE is slated for release in the fall of 2017. That book, which covers my "reentry" into society after 16 months in the Straight warehouse, will be brandie-brand new material.(less)
Cyndy Etler That's a great question with a complicated answer. Is it the exact same book? No. It's been tweaked and edited, and some new material has been added. …moreThat's a great question with a complicated answer. Is it the exact same book? No. It's been tweaked and edited, and some new material has been added. But is it a version of the same book? Yes.(less)

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May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To learn more about Straight, see the Q&A with the author, and meet another Straight Survivor, please visit

This review may contain some spoilers...

The Dead Inside is a compelling memoir written by the author Cyndy Drew Etler. Cyndy was a troubled teen in the 80's who had some experiences that aren't all that uncommon. She was making wrong choices while trying to find her place in the world. She spends some of her time smoking weed and drinking alcohol with her friends
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, via NetGalley for an honest review.



When I say WOW, I mean...Holy S*** WOW.

I have to say guys, I wasn’t expecting this story to turn out like that at all. A few months ago I was looking through the new books on Netgalley, found this story and immediately requested it. I had heard about these types of camps and institutions years ago, but I have never looked into them that deeply. This story follows Cyndy Etler
Christine Flannery
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For me, the worst, most terrifying part of being in Straight Inc. was, as Cyndy called it…the beast (group). Etler nails it in her description. The beast (group) was an instrument of verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. "Positive Peer Pressure" as Straight called it, was actually untrained teenagers attacking, bullying, insulting, belittling, humiliating, screaming, yelling, cursing at and tearing down the victim over and over until the kid was completely destroyed. Kids hurting kids. At a ...more
Mika Reyes
I am in no position to rate someone’s life so this will be a rate-free review.

To be honest, I do not know how I’d be reviewing this one because it is a memoir. I cannot judge the characters, plot or setting. Those aspects were not invented or carefully weaved and structured in the mind of the storyteller to come up with a great plot and narrative to tell.

These accounts are memories of a real, living person. This story happened in real life, specifically to this person named Cyndy.

Cyndy Drew Etle
Linda (un)Conventional Bookworms
The Dead Inside brought tears to my eyes more than once. I find it so hard to think that parents believe their spouses over their children. That they won't give their own children a safe place to stay. And that they willingly send their children to places like Straight Inc. ...more
Dannii Elle
I received this in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Cyndy Drew Etler, and the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, for this opportunity.

This is a memoir chronicling Cyndy's teenage years. She wasn't a bad kid and she wasn't a perfect kid, she was just an average one. She struggled to belong in her own skin and to find her own crowd. Every bad decision she ever made was one calculated to allow her to fit in. But what Cyndy soon realised was that every one of these de
Lorca Damon
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had the honor of reading an ARC of Straightling and it was an amazing read. I can't put into words the experience of reading this little girl's nightmare. On the one hand, you want to close the book and pretend these things don't actually happen to children, but on the other hand you had to finish it because you have to know that she survives her nearly two-year ordeal.

Beyond the compelling story, Etler is simply a brilliant writer. Even when describing scenes that are so foreign to me as some
Mandy Peterson
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What makes this book so horrifyingly gripping is that it is real. A true story. Starting out in the 1980s, 13-year-old Cyndy had casually tried marijuana and alcohol as a way to cope with her disgusting step-father and her turn-the-other-cheek mother. While Cyndy's friends were more into drugs and alcohol, she preferred their company and the loyalty she received when she made the choice to run away from her destructive home life. Unwilling to admit what was really going on, her parents told Cynd ...more
Apr 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My heart goes out to Cyndy. What a brave soul to have to endure endless evils that keep coming her way.

Pervert, alcoholic stepfather, a mother who sees, but chooses not to help, and this terrifying, cult like institution, Straight.

Cyndy found strength to survive through it all though.

Throughout the book, I kept screaming, "RUN! RUN!" Because Straight CLEARLY is a dangerous place to be. It somewhat reminded me of the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Thank you, Cyndy, for sharing your brave, and ter
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was very drawn to this book because I had a similar experience in my teens. Fortunately, my parents enrolled me into an outdoor program. It ended up being the opposite of Etler's experience. Hiking in the Northwest mountains empowered me and I gained many life skills. (Such as, starting a fire with flint and steel, ha! I haven't had the opportunity to use that skill as of yet. But if I am ever in the woods and need to start a fire...)
When I found out that I was going outward bound, I thought
Brittni (The Long Island Readium)
As a teenager, Cyndy Drew Etler lived in an abusive home. Her stepfather was an alcoholic who attacked her physically and sexually with no fight from Cyndy’s mother. Cyndy runs away often to avoid being near her stepfather when he was drunk and looks to spend the weekends with her friend who has a second home in another neighborhood. Cyndy is looking for approval in this gang of kids and that leads her to some unsettling situations for a girl of her age. Like many other teenagers, Cyndy experime ...more
Dec 28, 2016 added it
Shelves: memoir
*I didn't feel the need to rate this because this was someone's personal life and I don't think that it should be rated by a scale.*

I've never, ever read a memoir before and I have no idea why I requested to read The Dead Inside (thank you NetGalley & publishers!) but I am thankful that I had a chance to read it. I have never experienced what this author went through and it was really, really difficult to read. It was...horror. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to bare her soul out
Ginger McNulty
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read an earlier edition under the title Straightling. As a program survivor myself, I can tell you that this book was really hard for me to read. Cyndy Etler tells the tale so vividly and well. It brought back some deeply buried, troubling memories along with a sense of relief. Finally! Our story is getting out there. I can't wait to read the 2nd edition. I've heard there may be a prequel in the works too. ...more
Hans Watts
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Think you know anything about the "troubled teen industry" and drug treatment facilities?

This story will take you into the bowels of one of the most destructive (and yet "successful") centers the US has ever had- and it was supported by Nancy Reagan and her "Just Say No" campaign.

Had this story seen the light of day 30+ years ago, who knows if anyone would have listened. I hope you're listening now.

Be sure to read it with an open mind- willing to accept that there are NO exaggerations in this
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
Oh, to be “cool.” This novel was one of those books that after I read it, I stopped and reflected about what actually I had just read. I thought there were moments inside this novel that had excellent issues to ponder and the novel being a memoir made it hit home even harder. It wasn’t that Cyndy was a bad kid, she had just wanted to be with the cool kids and get away from her home life. She experimented with drugs just a few times to look “cool” and after reading the novel, I thought w
Dani St-Onge (Literary Lion)

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cyndy Etler isn’t a model child, but she’s certainly not a druggie or a slut or anyone who should have ended up at Straight Inc. To the outside world Straight Inc. appeared as a drug rehabilitation centre for teens, but inside it was frighteningly more cult-like. In her cutting and honest memoir Etler shows us inside Straight Inc. and how it affected those unlucky
Elizabeth Barnes
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
"I don't like depending on people because people leave all the time."

Let me start out by saying that I do not know how I will be reviewing this book because it is a memoir. I cannot judge the characters, plot, or setting. The accounts that happened throughout the book were memories; they happened in real life, specifically to a young woman named Cyndy.

Cyndy Etler isn't a model child, but she's certainty not a druggie or anyone who should have ended up at Straight Inc. To the outside world Straig
Wendy Bright
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Miss Etler is totally accurate in her description of Straight Inc.
She presents the horrors that occurred there in a vivid and true portrayal of what it was like to be a teenager in one of the most damaging, violent, "soul breaking" rehabs that America has seen.
This book will astound anyone that read it... Especially those of us that were there.
I did indeed feel as if I was "back on front row" while reading her very scary and very true book.
The suffering we endured there carries through for a lif
Barbara Cable
Since so many people confirm that the events in this book did in fact happen, I have to believe it. What I had trouble with was the author's poor writing, which kept me from feeling any sort of empathy for her. ...more
Julia Robinson
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My sister actually introduced me to this book. When she first told me about this book, I immediately wanted to read it. When I read this book I could see the locations and people that Cyndy was talking about. I could feel the fear, sadness, desperation and hope she was explaining. I hate that there are people that could not seem to get through this and just "gave up" because there are so many children in this world that are going through this same situation and most people are none the wiser abo ...more
Michelle (FabBookReviews)
As I read the harrowing true story of Cyndy Etler's time in the Straight Inc. program, I felt as I had when I read Garrard Conley's brilliant memoir Boy Erased: floored, aghast, enraged. A memoir of Cyndy Etler's time in the "rehabilitation" centre for "wayward" and "druggy" youths, The Dead Inside is an incredibly detailed, eye-opening, disturbing read that brings to light a very troubling so-called recovery program that existing only decades ago in North America (...and one that perhaps not ma ...more
Apr 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Wow! That's what comes to my mind after reading this book. It astounds me that this large-scale institution described in this book can exist and that ones like this still exist. I am completely disgusted.

The story is what makes this book good, the writing is nothing special and, in truth, confusing at times. I feel like the tenses and pov change without proper transition, which is understandable for the story being told, but not for style in this context.

I appreciate this expose and hope it insp

This book is a such a tough and heartbreaking read. It's so hard for me to imagine how hard some kids have it at just shouldn't be that way. I will admit that I am on the fence about booktalking this book (8th grade) because of how graphic it can be at times, but then someone reminded me that a lot of kids live in this type of situation and need to know there is hope. That's what this book is...HOPE. Why we conti
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book. man.

I had the pleasure of meeting cyndy etler the other day, and I gotta say...she is awesome. she is no longer dead inside. her story is tragic, involving things I didn't even know existed. for all that, she is so kind and upbeat and positive now, it's absolutely amazing.

This book is kind of all over the place, and you feel confused throughout a lot of it. that's the point. you have to be confused to be at straight. the stuff they did to these kids is just awful, makes the blood bo
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I haven't wanted to finish a book so quickly to see how it ends in ages. Compelling and scary first-hand account of one woman's experience in a cult-like residential treatment problem for "troubled teens" called STRAIGHT, INC. Ever since reading the book I've been researching online all about this 'teens for cash' industry and how unqualified these organizations are. I look forward to reading her follow-up book which is scheduled to come out this Fall ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I did not experience this abuse, I was with Cyndy Etler every step of the way. I could not put this book down. The raw, direct writing pulled me through every shocking experience. What a writer! How she ever made it through this ordeal only goes to show what an amazing person this author is. She is one heck of a human being out there now helping others despite all she went through herself. The information at the end of the story is a needed eye opener. We cannot let this kind of thing h ...more
Douglas Blackwell
Apr 28, 2017 is currently reading it
This book was great read. A quick read. Very well told story of a sad kid. It should be the number one tool for parents seeking help for their kids and for parents who need to recognize abuse.
Rosella LaFevre
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cyndy Drew Etler's been through hell. And she came out of it and had to learn how to survive the aftermath. She's turned that hell into art that makes the rest of us feel less alone. I became Cyndy's friend because of her book. I read an early self-published version. This one? It's tight, beautiful and epic. I want everyone to read this book.

This book is especially for those who favored books like The Bell Jar in high school (or who currently favor such fare). Cyndy PROVOKES the reader into feel
Germ Magazine
"Etler tells her painful story without restraint and gives teens a tool to explore abuse, sexual assault, and drug use. While extremely intense and brutal at some points, the narrative was always very interesting, and readers are sure to be glued to the pages, watching as Cyndy fails, strives for survival, and discovers the truth in her own life." ...more
Dani Iglesia
I didn’t finish the book, I really wanted to but it is pretty disturbing for me. I just don’t want to see the hardships she’s been thru because I end up crying… So I spoiled myself and read the ending which is so good! So this maybe different review. I feel the grip, the heartbreaking and as I imagine what happened to the author itself is really shocking.

Cyndy didn’t have a good childhood past. Instead, it’s heart breaking and really bad past. She tries to be fit in the society where every kid i
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A modern-day Cinderella, Cyndy Etler was homeless at fourteen, summa cum laude at thirty. Currently a young adult author and teen life coach, Etler spent sixteen years teaching troubled teens in schools across America.

Before she was paid for teaching Etler did it for free, volunteering at public schools and facilities for runaway teens. Today she speaks at fundraisers, schools and libraries, convi

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