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.
Justin Barisich is a freelancer, satirist, poet and performer living in Atlanta. More of his writing can be found at littlewritingman.com.