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High school sucks for a lot of people. High school extra sucks when you believe, deep in your soul, that every kid in school is out to get you. I wasn’t popular before I got locked up in Straight Inc., the notorious “tough love” program for troubled teens. So it’s not like I was walking around thinking everyone liked me.

But when you’re psychologically beaten for sixteen months, you start to absorb the lessons. The lessons in Straight were: You are evil. Your peers are evil. Everything is evil except Straight Inc.

Before long, you’re a true believer.

And when you’re finally released, sent back into the world, you crave safety. Crave being back in the warehouse. And if you can’t be there, you’d rather be dead.

This is the story of my return to my high school. This is the true story of how I didn’t die.

Read a chapter of We Can’t Be Friends


“Like watching a great horror flick. You really want to cover your eyes, but you just can’t! Compelling. Scary. Totally real.”

—Ellen Hopkins, New York Times Bestselling Author of CRANK

I never was a badass, actually.  Or a slut, a junkie, or 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.

Problem is, it’s 1985 in this crappy little Connecticut town.  Just Say No! is in full swing, and so’s my fucked-up life.

Nothing was supposed to get this bad.  I used to be just some unpopular kid, whose best friend was God and whose dead dad was famous.  But then my mother marries a molester, and the seesaw tilts down, hard.

So I run away to Bridgeport, this city that’s always dark.  I get Bridgeport and the basements, the guys, and the pot that go with it.  And everything’s okay.  But before I can even learn how to smoke pot right, my mother has me arrested.  And then she finds this…this warehouse…where she can lock me up.  Straight Inc., it’s called.

On the outside, Straight’s a drug rehab.  On the inside, it’s a cult.  But the outside sure is shiny!  I mean, Princess friggin Di visited, and Nancy Reagan.  I mean, damn.  So that’s how I fell, as a fourteen-year-old, into the world of brainwashing and institutionalized abuse: with a newscast of the first lady’s visit to a teen reform factory.

THE DEAD INSIDE takes the reader on a first-person rollercoaster ride.  It rips through my wide-eyed childhood, then through my sixteen months locked in a building, singing preschool songs and being spit on by a hive of troubled teens.  It follows the dismantling of my will to live and, with the help of primary sources, illustrates the work of karma.  In the end, Straight Inc. lies in ruins while I live on in my glossy life, with my dream guy and my dream dogs.

Read a chapter of THE DEAD INSIDE