Etler’s follow-up to her memoir, The Dead Inside (2017), charts her rocky high school years, fresh out of tough-love rehab.
When Cyndy Etler was 14, her mother sent her to Straight, Inc., an abusive rehab facility where she was brainwashed into believing that she was an addict, although she had only tried pot several times. After spending 16 months locked up, Cyndy is returned to her former life to find herself the “only clean and sober student” at Masuk High School. She feels intensely isolated from her peers, doing her best to maintain a low profile while tending to her sobriety. She takes comfort from attending various AA meetings and grasps desperately at whatever shreds of love and acceptance she can snatch, including a friendship with a sober friend that turns toxic and a string of fleeting, fraught encounters with boys that leave her feeling as unwanted as ever. Loneliness gives way to depression, which she eventually learns to combat with the help of a psychiatrist and an English teacher who encourages her to write. Etler’s gutsy present-tense narration of her feelings of insecurity and isolation is interwoven with the sublime moments of joy she experiences in music, in writing, and in her relationships; her prose dazzles with infectious verve.
A powerful story of a survivor whose irrepressible personality shines throughout even her darkest moments. (author’s note) (Memoir. 15-adult)