THE DEAD INSIDE

A TRUE STORY

Raw and absorbing, Etler’s voice captivates.

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)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3573-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS

Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.

Full-immersion journalist Kidder (Home Town, 1999, etc.) tries valiantly to keep up with a front-line, muddy-and-bloody general in the war against infectious disease in Haiti and elsewhere.

The author occasionally confesses to weariness in this gripping account—and why not? Paul Farmer, who has an M.D. and a Ph.D. from Harvard, appears to be almost preternaturally intelligent, productive, energetic, and devoted to his causes. So trotting alongside him up Haitian hills, through international airports and Siberian prisons and Cuban clinics, may be beyond the capacity of a mere mortal. Kidder begins with a swift account of his first meeting with Farmer in Haiti while working on a story about American soldiers, then describes his initial visit to the doctor’s clinic, where the journalist felt he’d “encountered a miracle.” Employing guile, grit, grins, and gifts from generous donors (especially Boston contractor Tom White), Farmer has created an oasis in Haiti where TB and AIDS meet their Waterloos. The doctor has an astonishing rapport with his patients and often travels by foot for hours over difficult terrain to treat them in their dwellings (“houses” would be far too grand a word). Kidder pauses to fill in Farmer’s amazing biography: his childhood in an eccentric family sounds like something from The Mosquito Coast; a love affair with Roald Dahl’s daughter ended amicably; his marriage to a Haitian anthropologist produced a daughter whom he sees infrequently thanks to his frenetic schedule. While studying at Duke and Harvard, Kidder writes, Farmer became obsessed with public health issues; even before he’d finished his degrees he was spending much of his time in Haiti establishing the clinic that would give him both immense personal satisfaction and unsurpassed credibility in the medical worlds he hopes to influence.

Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50616-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

THINGS GET HECTIC

TEENS WRITE ABOUT THE VIOLENCE THAT SURROUNDS THEM

A startling series of testimonies about urban violence from New York City teens. These first-person essays on sociological issues first appeared in New Youth Connection, a newspaper for and by students of New York City high schools. By choosing the best essays on the theme of violence, the editors have compiled a book more eloquent than a thousand police reports. For the writers live in housing projects; they know violence all too well. So why do kids kill each other? In their own words, “Kids nowadays are ready to kill . . . over the dumbest things.” You’ll hear talk of trafficking in gold chains—one young man is stabbed for a good fake. Yet the cause of violence is rarely just material. Instead, it erupts when one gets —dissed— (disrespected) too often in a life where to hold onto a shred of dignity is rare. To their credit, two of the teenage boys here write about why they will not pack a pistol: because they’ve seen innocent loved ones get killed, and because it gives the owner a dangerously distorted sense of power. While all the killing seems to involve young men who treat life “like a reset button in a video game,” some of the most abused victims are the young women in their lives—or, in one case, a homosexual young man who cannot take part in their bad-mustached, bad-mouthed behavior. Among the women, one Chinese girl, not dressed provocatively enough to earn the usual stream of catcalls from the corner full of unemployed truants, is angry enough to say, after a bottle is thrown at her, that it’s as though a female in the city “has a bullseye on her body.” Unheard voices crying for a hearing.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-83754-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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