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.”
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Drugs, Sexual abuse
Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Cyndy Etler was by all accounts a “normal” teenager until her mother, for ill-conceived reasons, pushed her into a drug rehab facility known as Straight, Inc., kicking off 16 months of hell. Straight’s methods of treatment were unconventional and abusive; they used “healed” teen graduates of their program as counselors, and their methods ranged from locking the teens inside rooms, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, spit therapy, and brainwashing disguised as positive peer pressure. The only way Etler knew how to survive was to confess to nonexistent sins and earn praise for her “honesty.” Etler weaves her story with conviction, self-deprecating humor, and hard facts, showing how Straight left in its wake people who were terrified of the real world. This memoir will leave readers scouring the Internet for more survivor stories and info about Straight (some of which is in the epilogue). Readers will come to respect the fighter that Etler is and the advocate she became for other teens in similar situations.
Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
In this debut memoir, Etler takes readers on a harrowing journey into Straight Inc., a nightmarish drug rehab that used controversial methods to “treat” its patients. At 14, Cyndy Etler was a white teenager desperately looking for a place to belong. Trying to escape from the abusive hands of her stepfather, she finds solace in Pink Floyd, God, and Bridgeport, the Connecticut city where she can escape with her best friend on weekends. When her mother reports her as a runaway, she sets off a chain of events that lands Cyndy at Straight Inc., a drug-rehabilitation facility in Virginia. Bewildered, Cyndy is sure she will be released as soon as the staff realizes she is not a drug addict. She cannot imagine that she will be stuck in this place—“a warehouse, literally…where, for a fee, parents can disappear their fuckups and rejects”—for the next 16 months. The treatment at Straight is bizarre and abusive, consisting largely of peer-led intimidation, emotional abuse, and mind games where the extensive rules are strictly enforced by the “group.” Cyndy’s progression into Stockholm syndrome is shocking yet wholly believable. Etler channels her younger self’s voice with pitch-perfect verisimilitude as Cyndy goes from wide-eyed disbelief to acquiescence, having finally found a place where she feels like she belongs. An epilogue offers a redemptive conclusion, and an author’s note provides chilling context for Straight’s history and Cyndy’s story. Raw and absorbing, Etler’s voice captivates. (author’s note) (Memoir. 15 & up)
About the Author
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, convincing teens that books work better than drugs.
After years of hopscotching, Etler now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and dogs.
Her website is http://www.cyndyetler.com
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