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Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir

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Zack Bonnie was fourteen when his parents sent him to a "Troubled Teen" facility. The author takes readers there, in a thrilling psychological read. Sequestered where bizarre cult-like techniques become the norm, see for yourself exactly what the controversy is about. Should we mold a child's behavior using the tools of brainwashing? With coarse, brutal dialog and authenti Zack Bonnie was fourteen when his parents sent him to a "Troubled Teen" facility. The author takes readers there, in a thrilling psychological read. Sequestered where bizarre cult-like techniques become the norm, see for yourself exactly what the controversy is about. Should we mold a child's behavior using the tools of brainwashing? With coarse, brutal dialog and authentic source materials, this nonfiction memoir, the first in a series, exposes the secrets and tells it all. Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir is named for the range of options open to the author at 14, if he ran away from the cult his parents inadvertently inducted him into. This is the first time he has told his story. And it’s a doozy. Too many people can relate to this account, unfortunately. Although Rocky Mountain Academy has closed its doors, several hundred residential teen-treatment programs, religious reeducation camps, and places that commit spiritual assassination still operate without oversight in the United States. Imagine (or remember) being a confused teenager. Now imagine that the only solution your parents can devise is sending you away to be “fixed.” Zack’s touching, true account of being trapped in the “scared straight” industry just might be the book your reluctant teenage reader has been seeking. Barbara J. Danis Literacy Specialist / Coach Zack Bonnie’s work is a gift to those interested in the history and dynamics of coercive residential teen-treatment programs. With gut-level insight, humor and frankness, he describes the inner experience of a precocious 14 year-old who was engulfed and overwhelmed by these bizarre, yet legal, forms of psychological abuse. Marcus Chatfield, Author, Institutionalized Persuasion It is sad the abuse of teenagers to tough love programs by mis-informed parents and politicians did not end with the revelations concerning the concept originator Synanon. To be stopped eventually, stories like this must keep being told. Paul Morantz, Esq. Author, Escape: My Life Long War Against Cults It’s often hard to describe how traumatic and damaging “troubled teen” programs for young people are. This important perspective from someone who lived it offers a vivid portrait of hell that is sold as therapy. Maia Szalavitz Author, Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids In the tradition of Darkness At Noon, Zack’s history puts the reader into the life that too many “survivors” experienced, and he does this in a finely crafted page-turner. Philip Elberg, Esq. Zack Bonnie’s memoir is a riveting tale of shame, intimidation, coercion, and frank abuse in the name of “treatment.” The continued existence of programs like CEDU should be considered a national disgrace. Christopher Bellonci, MD Zack Bonnie’s book sheds light on the larger concerns of many families, then and now. Well-meaning parents are vulnerable to programs like Rocky Mountain Academy. Although it was closed years ago, many more such facilities have been established. These schools and programs take good money from families, and harm their children, all the while masquerading as therapy programs. I join Zack in advocating for regulation and reform so that facilities like RMA can no longer manipulate and harm entire families. Robin C Bernhard, LCSW, MEd, BCN Thank you, Zack. Your book succeeds on so many levels – as autobiography, as social criticism, as just a good story – I hope you make a million dollars. John Bodine, Rocky Mountain Academy Alumnus In the years of composing DIJ it became clear that there was lack of detailed information from the inside, and from a young person's point of view, that would ever be considered accurate. I wanted to close the gap and disrupt the secrecy. I wanted to document, in the most realistic way that words would allow, my memories of the time I was at RMA. Zack Bonnie, Author, Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir


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Zack Bonnie was fourteen when his parents sent him to a "Troubled Teen" facility. The author takes readers there, in a thrilling psychological read. Sequestered where bizarre cult-like techniques become the norm, see for yourself exactly what the controversy is about. Should we mold a child's behavior using the tools of brainwashing? With coarse, brutal dialog and authenti Zack Bonnie was fourteen when his parents sent him to a "Troubled Teen" facility. The author takes readers there, in a thrilling psychological read. Sequestered where bizarre cult-like techniques become the norm, see for yourself exactly what the controversy is about. Should we mold a child's behavior using the tools of brainwashing? With coarse, brutal dialog and authentic source materials, this nonfiction memoir, the first in a series, exposes the secrets and tells it all. Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir is named for the range of options open to the author at 14, if he ran away from the cult his parents inadvertently inducted him into. This is the first time he has told his story. And it’s a doozy. Too many people can relate to this account, unfortunately. Although Rocky Mountain Academy has closed its doors, several hundred residential teen-treatment programs, religious reeducation camps, and places that commit spiritual assassination still operate without oversight in the United States. Imagine (or remember) being a confused teenager. Now imagine that the only solution your parents can devise is sending you away to be “fixed.” Zack’s touching, true account of being trapped in the “scared straight” industry just might be the book your reluctant teenage reader has been seeking. Barbara J. Danis Literacy Specialist / Coach Zack Bonnie’s work is a gift to those interested in the history and dynamics of coercive residential teen-treatment programs. With gut-level insight, humor and frankness, he describes the inner experience of a precocious 14 year-old who was engulfed and overwhelmed by these bizarre, yet legal, forms of psychological abuse. Marcus Chatfield, Author, Institutionalized Persuasion It is sad the abuse of teenagers to tough love programs by mis-informed parents and politicians did not end with the revelations concerning the concept originator Synanon. To be stopped eventually, stories like this must keep being told. Paul Morantz, Esq. Author, Escape: My Life Long War Against Cults It’s often hard to describe how traumatic and damaging “troubled teen” programs for young people are. This important perspective from someone who lived it offers a vivid portrait of hell that is sold as therapy. Maia Szalavitz Author, Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids In the tradition of Darkness At Noon, Zack’s history puts the reader into the life that too many “survivors” experienced, and he does this in a finely crafted page-turner. Philip Elberg, Esq. Zack Bonnie’s memoir is a riveting tale of shame, intimidation, coercion, and frank abuse in the name of “treatment.” The continued existence of programs like CEDU should be considered a national disgrace. Christopher Bellonci, MD Zack Bonnie’s book sheds light on the larger concerns of many families, then and now. Well-meaning parents are vulnerable to programs like Rocky Mountain Academy. Although it was closed years ago, many more such facilities have been established. These schools and programs take good money from families, and harm their children, all the while masquerading as therapy programs. I join Zack in advocating for regulation and reform so that facilities like RMA can no longer manipulate and harm entire families. Robin C Bernhard, LCSW, MEd, BCN Thank you, Zack. Your book succeeds on so many levels – as autobiography, as social criticism, as just a good story – I hope you make a million dollars. John Bodine, Rocky Mountain Academy Alumnus In the years of composing DIJ it became clear that there was lack of detailed information from the inside, and from a young person's point of view, that would ever be considered accurate. I wanted to close the gap and disrupt the secrecy. I wanted to document, in the most realistic way that words would allow, my memories of the time I was at RMA. Zack Bonnie, Author, Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir

30 review for Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    The author has written a powerful story that deals with a very important issue. The troubled teen industry. Thousands of kids go through these programs without any chance to influence their own future, which is very disturbing and frightening. I highly recommend this book. Well written, it gives you the creeps and its unbelievable how these industries still exist. Zack Bonnie Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir The author has written a powerful story that deals with a very important issue. The troubled teen industry. Thousands of kids go through these programs without any chance to influence their own future, which is very disturbing and frightening. I highly recommend this book. Well written, it gives you the creeps and its unbelievable how these industries still exist. Zack Bonnie Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir

  2. 4 out of 5

    Reni559

    To the author-posed question of who this book is for. My answer: Most everyone? I feel like it's not just for adults, yet not just for kids; not just for fact-seekers, yet not just for fiction/drama-seekers. The writing manages to reach this rare middle-ground that can capture any audience, with a merged style of theater and truthful detail. I don't think you have to be a parent to be disturbed by what's going on behind the scenes. After seeing the full detail of how manipulative and seemingly be To the author-posed question of who this book is for. My answer: Most everyone? I feel like it's not just for adults, yet not just for kids; not just for fact-seekers, yet not just for fiction/drama-seekers. The writing manages to reach this rare middle-ground that can capture any audience, with a merged style of theater and truthful detail. I don't think you have to be a parent to be disturbed by what's going on behind the scenes. After seeing the full detail of how manipulative and seemingly benign and "helpful" the staff personalities can be, I'm disturbed now knowing how this can happen so easily with so many smiles in our direction. I'm a fiction writer myself, so I also look at these kinds of books in terms of plot vs character development. Other Survivor books I've read feel detached to some extent, if not a great extent, due to the Survivor's experience being too difficult to face, or they didn't have a journal like he did, or were too young to be self-aware, or simply due to the (POOR!) choice of hiring a ghost writer - which gives their supposedly emotional book too much of a sterile clean-cut professional feel rather than a raw experience. The rawness is well-written, showing a detail of human experience we otherwise rarely get to see the juice of, just the meat. I love nothing more than subtle detailed nuances, how even the act of waking up in bed can be a disturbing experience, waking INTO a nightmare rather than FROM one. Every paragraph is just that, detailed and disturbing. Then there's the "show don't tell" aspect of fiction writing that is so well-played in this non-fiction book. It's a linear story about him as he experiences it, much more like a story than memoir, yet still true, and there's considerably less "telling" than with most other books I've read, fiction or non. I feel this also makes it readable by everyone because it's written in a simple-to-understand way where you get to FEEL with him exactly how insane the place is, rather than being TOLD. I also loved how at first the dialogue was a little confusing with new terms, and why people are suddenly terrified or crying before anything has happened. The confusion seemed clearly intentional to me. I enjoyed that tactic because that's exactly the confusion he must have felt when living it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ginger McNulty

    Wow! This book is what my dear big brother calls a "flop-over" As soon as you're done reading the last page, you'll want to flop it over and read it again, knowing that it will be a different story, even more rich and more intriguing; minus the full force shock value and well communicated initial confusion; plus the added insight and understanding from the first run through. Aside from the artwork, my favorite pages are the Introduction by Richard Bonnie and the final page, the Afterword. I've rea Wow! This book is what my dear big brother calls a "flop-over" As soon as you're done reading the last page, you'll want to flop it over and read it again, knowing that it will be a different story, even more rich and more intriguing; minus the full force shock value and well communicated initial confusion; plus the added insight and understanding from the first run through. Aside from the artwork, my favorite pages are the Introduction by Richard Bonnie and the final page, the Afterword. I've read Dr. Bonnie's love letter to his son at least 5 times now and it still made my face leak. I'm tearing up a little now as I write this. Few of us program vets ever get such a solid and heartfelt apology, validation and vote of confidence from our families. Zack comes by his courage and compassion quite honestly, it seems. The Afterword is an initial salvo in what I'm convinced will be a huge step in the growing movement to end this kind of treatment of human beings, most especially the unwitting harm done by well intended families, professionals and program staff deluded into believing that what they're doing is professional and therapeutic. Here is a brief excerpt from that page: "Today, public, private, governmental, religious and 'treatment oriented' institutions are negatively effecting millions of lives. Young people deserve a protective standard to shield them from the corruption, predation and greed of systems and individuals meant to protect them! Teens have an affirmative right to develop into the persons they become without undue influence, and without threats to their individual autonomy and free expression. "please join me as I build a personal strategy to these ends. ..." I've always thought highly of Zack since I made his acquaintance some years ago on Fornits. He just became my road dog. I pledge from this day forward to do all that I can to help him realize his ambition.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. My opinion is just that...mine...and completely unbiased. The landmines that Zack walked through in his mind in his young teens are the same ones that many before have walked, but Zack went one step further than a number of those young people.....he survived! Those early teen years are a mystery for most of us. Who are we, what do we want to be, no, who do we want to be? Where do I fit in, CRAP...who are these people in my life and do I really want my life I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. My opinion is just that...mine...and completely unbiased. The landmines that Zack walked through in his mind in his young teens are the same ones that many before have walked, but Zack went one step further than a number of those young people.....he survived! Those early teen years are a mystery for most of us. Who are we, what do we want to be, no, who do we want to be? Where do I fit in, CRAP...who are these people in my life and do I really want my life to turn out like theirs. No, I want to be "me", I want my "independence", I WANT!!!! Oh, but wait, there is so much more involved. You mean I have to conform to some rules, I have to be an active part of "your" lives, I have to play by rules? And then what happens when I "don't" fit in? I guess I rebel. We may not realize that our "rebellion" affects so many around us at the time, but it does. Are these so called "programs for out-of-control teens" the answer? I think not. When there is no reasonable regulation you will run the gambit of bullying, mind control, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc....the list could go on and on. Do I know the answer? HELL NO!! I do know as a mom, who had a couple of "rebellious" kids, and as a past rebellious teen myself, that life in those early teens is a very confusing time that needs not only patience and understanding, but limitations and yes, some discipline. Zack has gone even further with his experience by being an active advocate for teens in these same situations. I applaud him for his efforts and hope that in this he has found some form of peace. Thank you Zack for sharing your journey!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne Martin

    I've finished reading this amazing book -amazing in its original meaning, you are amazed because the story is almost unbelievable... I don't know what I think of it. The author declares it is his memoirs, with some names changed, to protect the memories of the others, dead or alive. Is it possible? Can such a story be true? If it is, how come it did not make much, much more noise? Or is it made up with kids trying to find repressed souvenirs, and fit their new discovered memories near the other on I've finished reading this amazing book -amazing in its original meaning, you are amazed because the story is almost unbelievable... I don't know what I think of it. The author declares it is his memoirs, with some names changed, to protect the memories of the others, dead or alive. Is it possible? Can such a story be true? If it is, how come it did not make much, much more noise? Or is it made up with kids trying to find repressed souvenirs, and fit their new discovered memories near the other ones, true or not true? I still don't know what to think. While reading the book, I thought some reality sense would come to them, and many of those recovered memories will vanish. But no... it did not disappear. Who went to these very special schools? were extra powers discovered? what is real, what is fiction? The way the book has been cut to make it a series make me doubt of the complete authenticity of the story. Some parts are awfully long, a hundred pages for the propheet evening, some others are non existent, like what is school there? I missed the information you wished to have from the parents, too. The reasons Zack is sent to this school are never clearly explained. He was not the nicest kid, but he was already in boarding schools, meaning he did not bother his parents too much. so, what happened?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Darlene

    I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Going into this, I had no idea what CEDU schools were, or anything about the "troubled teen industry." I found myself entertained by the story and writing style, as well as shocked that this entertaining "story" was someone's life. I kept thinking to myself that if I were in Zack Bonnie's shoes I would have gone INSANE! He handled his situation way better than I would have. It is beyond me why the types of "therapy" depicted in this book could be cons I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Going into this, I had no idea what CEDU schools were, or anything about the "troubled teen industry." I found myself entertained by the story and writing style, as well as shocked that this entertaining "story" was someone's life. I kept thinking to myself that if I were in Zack Bonnie's shoes I would have gone INSANE! He handled his situation way better than I would have. It is beyond me why the types of "therapy" depicted in this book could be considered helpful to anyone. I am also shocked that parents didn't seem to do any research into the credentials of the people administering the "therapy" (hint: they didn't have any). One thing I found especially interesting was the letter in the book from Bonnie's father. It was nice to hear his perspective on the situation, looking back on the events, and hindsight being 20/20. I do wish some photos would have been included in the book (if any exist). Since reading this I have delved into learning about CEDU and other methods of "therapeutic schools." It doesn't seem like that much information is available, which is a shame because I feel like people should know about this. I would completely recommend this book, and I look forward to the second book in the series.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn O'Neal

    Both the good and the frustrating part of "Dead, Insane, or in Jail" is that it relies on what could be an unreliable narrator to tell the story. If this were fiction, I would go along with the ride. But being nonfiction, I am constantly trying to second guess the motives of the parents. Are Zack's parents neglectful? Cruel? What did Zack do to deserve this abandonment? He is only 14 years old yet has had experiences most 19 year old have never had - sex, drugs, world travel. Did he grow up too Both the good and the frustrating part of "Dead, Insane, or in Jail" is that it relies on what could be an unreliable narrator to tell the story. If this were fiction, I would go along with the ride. But being nonfiction, I am constantly trying to second guess the motives of the parents. Are Zack's parents neglectful? Cruel? What did Zack do to deserve this abandonment? He is only 14 years old yet has had experiences most 19 year old have never had - sex, drugs, world travel. Did he grow up too fast? Or not fast enough? Had he been a 14 year old today, would he have been medicated instead of sent away? I hope these questions are answered in upcoming books. The troubled teen industry exists for a reason. Like war, it may be a bad reason, but still a reason. This book does parents a great service in exposing the industry's lack of professional standards.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lora

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I'm not sure what I would have done in place of Zack's parents, but CEDU was not the answer. I felt like the program he was sent into was like getting insane people to cure the sane. I'll admit that I was pretty confused during some parts of the book, but maybe I was supposed to feel that way since surely Zack was feeling that way at the time. I think it's great that he's raising awareness that parents are paying (and paying well) to have their children I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I'm not sure what I would have done in place of Zack's parents, but CEDU was not the answer. I felt like the program he was sent into was like getting insane people to cure the sane. I'll admit that I was pretty confused during some parts of the book, but maybe I was supposed to feel that way since surely Zack was feeling that way at the time. I think it's great that he's raising awareness that parents are paying (and paying well) to have their children abused. That's never the way to straighten out troubled youth.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    CEDU Educational Services, Inc., known simply as CEDU, was founded in 1967 by Mel Wasserman and his wife Brigitta. The company owned and operated several therapeutic boarding schools and behavior modification programs in California and Idaho. CEDU origins go back to Synanon, a cult founded in Santa Monica, California in 1958 by Charles Dederich. The Troubled Teen Industry[1] today largely consists of Synanon and/or CEDU offshoots. I thank this author for making me aware of CEDU and prompting me CEDU Educational Services, Inc., known simply as CEDU, was founded in 1967 by Mel Wasserman and his wife Brigitta. The company owned and operated several therapeutic boarding schools and behavior modification programs in California and Idaho. CEDU origins go back to Synanon, a cult founded in Santa Monica, California in 1958 by Charles Dederich. The Troubled Teen Industry[1] today largely consists of Synanon and/or CEDU offshoots. I thank this author for making me aware of CEDU and prompting me to go to the Web to learn about this. The author himself todl me that of "CEDU and its roots in Synanon and the Troubled Teen Industry,... there's more and more information and articles out there." Now I am also intrigued about "Erhard seminar training or Landmark Forum." However, this book suffers I think from a lack of such historical context. Well, that is judging is as a historical memoir. As a thrilling tale that works well, as we are just as much at sea as the author when dropped off by his parents under false pretext and has no such context himself when demeaned in confrontational group therapy and other brainwashing-like, cultish settings even unto dining on raccoon and mouse in challenging "Wilderness Therapy". As an attack on questionable "therapy" techniques I recall Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark for his well-reasoned arguments for the damage such untutored approaches can wreak on the mind and soul. And that is one thing for adults voluntarily consenting to such activity, but hurling "troubled" teens into such a morass and severing ties to family, well, .... This should serve as a warning for any parent thinking of turning over their offspring to the Troubled Teen Industry.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Staci Baker

    I couldnt put it down! This book was eye opening. It's amazing and horrible that places like this exist and that the staff actually think they're helping. Zack does a great job telling about the horror he endured in the name of therapy. I couldnt put it down! This book was eye opening. It's amazing and horrible that places like this exist and that the staff actually think they're helping. Zack does a great job telling about the horror he endured in the name of therapy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Back when I was in high school 30+ years ago, a fellow student was removed from school mid-term by his parents and sent to some kind of troubled-teen program to be "straightened out." We didn't know each other well, but I knew enough about him to understand that he was not unusual in any way as far as rebellion, drugs, grades, etc were concerned. This was in northern Virginia, an area stuffed to the brim with government and military families, so we all just assumed he was normal but his parents Back when I was in high school 30+ years ago, a fellow student was removed from school mid-term by his parents and sent to some kind of troubled-teen program to be "straightened out." We didn't know each other well, but I knew enough about him to understand that he was not unusual in any way as far as rebellion, drugs, grades, etc were concerned. This was in northern Virginia, an area stuffed to the brim with government and military families, so we all just assumed he was normal but his parents were rigid, overbearing assholes. We were kids, what did we know? He was gone for about half of the school year before reports reached our school that he'd escaped. With that news, he became an overnight hero. When he was found/caught/whatever I guess he wasn't sent back because not long after escaping he was back in northern Virginia. In that regard, he had it better than Zack Bonnie, author of this book. I'm not sure what kind of facility or program my classmate was sent to, but if it's anything like RMA or SUWS, I can see why he escaped. Holy crapola. No doubt about it, this book is damning in the highest degree. As much as I can see intense therapies like the ones in the book helping some people (I confess, mid-way through I found myself getting some accidental therapy just from reading about the "raps"), the methods that are employed are tricky and dangerous and seem like really, really bad ideas in general. And the lack of autonomy and respect for the kids...talk about being treated like a prisoner. Horrible, just horrible. Yeah, this book was good. Zack puts you in RMA, sprays you with Darlayne's spit, dehydrates you in the middle of nowhere with no water in sight, banishes you to solitary confinement, starves you, doesn't let you pee, and yells at you for doing the wrong thing no matter what it is you do (Marathon Man, anyone? "Is it safe?"). This book is brutal. Other than a bit of excess sentimentality in the early pages, it's a 293-page-long raw nerve. That said, it's also entertaining. Zack knows how to tell a story. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue reading the series (more of the same? I don't know if I can take it), but I'm damn glad I read this part of it. It's a hell of a story, and even if my high school classmate went somewhere other than RMA or SUWS, I feel like I got a taste of what he went through. I appreciate that. Folks need to know what these programs were (and in some areas, still are) all about. (Full disclosure: I received this book from Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. And I respect our military. That too.)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Coquille Fleur

    I'm really interested in first person accounts of teens who were prisoners of the troubled teen industry and this book didn't disappoint. Zack is pretty close to my age, so I could relate a lot to his experiences and I'm fairly certain my parents considered sending me off to one of these places at around 15 yrs old and only my good grades saved me. I like Zack's intellectual almost journalistic approach to this memoir. I can tell that he was a precocious and thoughtful kid who could have blossom I'm really interested in first person accounts of teens who were prisoners of the troubled teen industry and this book didn't disappoint. Zack is pretty close to my age, so I could relate a lot to his experiences and I'm fairly certain my parents considered sending me off to one of these places at around 15 yrs old and only my good grades saved me. I like Zack's intellectual almost journalistic approach to this memoir. I can tell that he was a precocious and thoughtful kid who could have blossomed in the right environment, but sadly his parents got suckered into the troubled teen industry--CEDU in particular. The way he is tricked by his father and left to be strip searched, emotionally tortured, and physically pushed to his limits is so tragic, especially since he was only 14 at the time. The way Zack writes really takes the reader into his head as he grapples with trying to figure out what the hell is happening and will happen to him. These programs deliberately throw new kids in and force them to to learn immersion-style, which after being duped by parents and abandoned is probably the absolute worst thing to do to an already confused teen. In some ways, the Rocky Mountain Academy CEDU sounds not so bad compared to the Elan School or the Straight, Inc. programs running at the time, but then again that's like saying Auschwitz isn't so bad compared to Bergen Belsen or whatever. They were all (and many still are) culty concentration camp for teens utilizing confrontation therapy developed in Synanon--an actual cult. I love Zack's strength, resistance, and ability to rationally observe the situation. This book ends before the end of his time at CEDU, so I'm sure he is eventually successfully brainwashed by the end of his stay. I've already loaded the next book because I can't wait to find out. The letter from Zack's father at the beginning of this book is so smug and unapologetic. Yuck. I can't imagine doing that to your kid, and I have raised a rebellious son to adulthood, so I can say that! I'm so glad people like Zack Bonnie, Joe Nobody, Cindy Etler, and even Paris Hilton (also a CEDU survivor) are out there sharing their stories. The consequences of putting teens through these fucked-up programs seems to be something that is coming out more and more as they reach middle age and are still dealing with PTSD and worse. I hope all these bullshit programs get shut down!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Lewonczyk

    So full disclosure, I was friends with Zack in college and so am completely biased. That said, reading his book was - well, I hesitate to call it a "pleasant" surprise, considering the subject matter, but it was eye-opening in pretty much every respect - not only in terms of the content, but in its revelation of a vital new autobiographical voice. First of all, there's the story he has to tell - a memoir about landing at a remote school for "troubled teens" that used a rubric of tough love to ca So full disclosure, I was friends with Zack in college and so am completely biased. That said, reading his book was - well, I hesitate to call it a "pleasant" surprise, considering the subject matter, but it was eye-opening in pretty much every respect - not only in terms of the content, but in its revelation of a vital new autobiographical voice. First of all, there's the story he has to tell - a memoir about landing at a remote school for "troubled teens" that used a rubric of tough love to camouflage a festering viper fit of mind-control intimidation techniques, attempting to break down the personalities of the young people sent there in order to make them theoretically more acceptable to society at large - a twilight world about which I knew nothing and am disturbed to cover existed. But beyond simply the tale, there's the telling - Zack has pulled off the feat of completely inhabiting his 14-year-old self in prose, evoking in the reader the same disorientation, bewilderment and fear that he experienced after being summarily dropped in this hellhole by his well-meaning but uninformed parents. He convincingly immerses you in the spiral of weirdness and terror that occurs when the usual seismic changes of adolescence unfold in a freaky, cult-like environment. Zack's summoning of himself from 27 years ago is an uncanny conjuring, which provides humor and hope in a story that would otherwise have been almost too dismal to bear. This is Zack's latest salvo in an ongoing effort to focus scrutiny these institutions, which apparently continue to crop up in different guises well into the 21st Century. The whole project shines a light on a corner of the world you may not have thought about before, but won't be able to forget - telling in the process an urgent true-life story with vivid characters and incidents that will force you to question the systems we live in and make you grateful for the small freedoms we manage to eke out each day. Highly recommended (personal bias and all).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tamara

    This was a compelling book to read. I won it on Goodreads and it interested me because my professional role involves placing kids in residential treatment. This is a first-hand account of one person's experience in one of these facilities in the 1980's. I know that the treatment centers nowadays, at least the ones that I am familiar with, are nothing like the one described. I hope that these kind of places don't exist anymore, but they probably do. At the CECU place, the kids had their basic nee This was a compelling book to read. I won it on Goodreads and it interested me because my professional role involves placing kids in residential treatment. This is a first-hand account of one person's experience in one of these facilities in the 1980's. I know that the treatment centers nowadays, at least the ones that I am familiar with, are nothing like the one described. I hope that these kind of places don't exist anymore, but they probably do. At the CECU place, the kids had their basic needs met, minimally at least - which wasn't true of the wilderness program that the author gets sent to towards the end. CEDU, as he portrays it, had a bizarre cult-like atmosphere, and seemed to run on the philosophy of some drug-treatment programs which use confrontation to destroy the person's sense of self and then build it back up. Most concerning to me was the fact that the counselors were kids or very young adults who had gone through the program, with no licensed clinician in sight. It seemed like the program had some positive things to offer, if somebody could deal with all the crazy stuff. The author does hint at the end that he was finally able to use the program to turn his life around - but that story is saved for the next volume. The writing is really that of a troubled 14-year old. There could have been some better editing, as the tale could have been told more succinctly. There were times that I was offended at the way he describes the body parts of his hated female counselor. There were times that I wished for an adult perspective. All in all, a worthwhile, even important read, for people who work with troubled youth.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    I will start this review by saying that I won this book through a goodreads giveaway from the author. I heard a lot of good things about this book before I started to read it, so I was excited when I realized that it surpassed my expectations. It is a well written memoir about truly unbelievable events in a young boy's life. I did not have much knowledge on the troubled teen industry before reading this book and this book has widened my horizons as to look into it and understand it. The author writ I will start this review by saying that I won this book through a goodreads giveaway from the author. I heard a lot of good things about this book before I started to read it, so I was excited when I realized that it surpassed my expectations. It is a well written memoir about truly unbelievable events in a young boy's life. I did not have much knowledge on the troubled teen industry before reading this book and this book has widened my horizons as to look into it and understand it. The author writes with so much detail, you forget that he is telling a story about when he was fourteen. The letters and notes that he adds in the book add to it's authenticity and it sent shivers down my spine reading the actual words that were exchanged between him and his peers/family/counsellors etc. The events that occurred in the book really gives you an understanding of how strong the author was when he had so much to deal with. As soon as you feel the story is coming to a calmer point, there's a plot twist and the drama starts right back up again and you won't want to put the book down. I am a huge fan of memoirs and have read many of them. I am definitely going to be read this one multiple times. I would recommend this memoir to literally anyone, young and old…whether you know about the troubled teen industry or not. It will surely teach you a thing or two about it and it will leave you shocked and wanting to read more about what might have happened next. I heard that this book is the first book of a trilogy..I really hope it is because I will definitely be looking forward to continuing reading what else happened to him on his journey in his next books.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ilyse

    At times this book was hard to get through, but only because it was so effective in bringing me back to the mindset of being an adolescent (having also been a freedom-craving explorer and experimenter in my own youth), and because it imparted so well the atmosphere and abusive tactics at CEDU. My inner adolescent (still a person I carry with me, and value, and sometimes need to listen to) wanted to scream and choke those people, wanted to shout all the terrible things about them, wanted to run a At times this book was hard to get through, but only because it was so effective in bringing me back to the mindset of being an adolescent (having also been a freedom-craving explorer and experimenter in my own youth), and because it imparted so well the atmosphere and abusive tactics at CEDU. My inner adolescent (still a person I carry with me, and value, and sometimes need to listen to) wanted to scream and choke those people, wanted to shout all the terrible things about them, wanted to run away, but I had to just keep reading the book. Without offering any spoilers, there is some redemption and a sort of emotional resting spot in the last part of the book. Stick with it! I never had a clue what these kinds of "schools" were like, though I knew a few kids who were sent away to probably very similar places when I was in high school in the 70s. I was one of the lucky ones, simply left home at 17 yrs old and managed to find my way - stumbling at times, railing at society and the system (to this day), self-harming at times, but free. I look forward to reading future installments of Zack Bonnie's story, to learn how his path unfolded. I recommend this book for combining important exposé with a really gripping tale of personal experience. Love the person your adolescent really is, parents.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Moya

    Are the Means Justified by the End Results? Find out in a trilogy that begin in Bonnie's Book 1: Dead, Insane or in Jail Mr. Zack Bonnie's debut book does an excellent job of describing the indescribable experience that occurs when adolescence is interrupted abruptly and severely when a parent chooses to follow the advice of programs (such as Rocky Mountain Academy and SUWS) which are based on junk science, more commonly known as myths and folklore, about how to properly help a teen navigate t Are the Means Justified by the End Results? Find out in a trilogy that begin in Bonnie's Book 1: Dead, Insane or in Jail Mr. Zack Bonnie's debut book does an excellent job of describing the indescribable experience that occurs when adolescence is interrupted abruptly and severely when a parent chooses to follow the advice of programs (such as Rocky Mountain Academy and SUWS) which are based on junk science, more commonly known as myths and folklore, about how to properly help a teen navigate the storm and strife of adolescence. As Zack describes in his first book, often a child already struggling to navigate his/her adolescent years, is introduced to even more bizarre rituals and hazing in these programs only complicating the problematic behavior that may have led parents towards seeking outside help in the first place. I am looking forward to Zack Bonnie's continuing narrative in his upcoming books.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book. I was already familiar with the never-ending "tough love" movement and its deranged cruelty to teens who were already struggling. I wasn't sure I wanted another look inside that nightmare. I'm glad I read it, though. If this story is accurate, Zach Bonnie's courage is inspiring. He found a way to stay sane and spirited, even though he was at the mercy of sick people determined to break him. The most damning thing in here against the tough love movement? I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book. I was already familiar with the never-ending "tough love" movement and its deranged cruelty to teens who were already struggling. I wasn't sure I wanted another look inside that nightmare. I'm glad I read it, though. If this story is accurate, Zach Bonnie's courage is inspiring. He found a way to stay sane and spirited, even though he was at the mercy of sick people determined to break him. The most damning thing in here against the tough love movement? It's reading how a young teen sincerely puzzled over why he was there in the first place. He searchingly asked himself what crime he'd committed that made this treatment (?) necessary. Somehow, Zach's voice is not bitter as he tells the story, and that alone is kind of amazing. If you're reading this, then something brought the troubled teen industry to your attention. You've come this far; you owe it to yourself to read this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Stott

    I stumbled upon Zack Bonnie's book a couple of days ago during a Google search of names I remembered from a time and place that have haunted me for years. As someone who experienced the subject matter firsthand, I was gripped by how deftly his story described the indescribable. After the initial surge of profound yet unpleasant nostalgia for people and things I remembered wore off, I realized that I was reading an excellent book. Midway through my binge-read, I began to hope that, at long last, I stumbled upon Zack Bonnie's book a couple of days ago during a Google search of names I remembered from a time and place that have haunted me for years. As someone who experienced the subject matter firsthand, I was gripped by how deftly his story described the indescribable. After the initial surge of profound yet unpleasant nostalgia for people and things I remembered wore off, I realized that I was reading an excellent book. Midway through my binge-read, I began to hope that, at long last, someone had written the book that I knew needed writing; with each page, I rooted for the story to keep stretching and to finish strong. In the end, it did and Dead, Insane or in Jail proved to be an exceptional read. And the best/worst part? Mr. Bonnie isn't finished. I'll be first in line when he extends the series.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Leuthe

    This was such an emotional book to read ,seeing what can really happen at some of these so called schools and survival programs its scary.i will read all of the books in this series and support any way i can the need for control and monitoring of these programs so all our children have a fair chance.I live in the area with the kids for cash scandal and it is crazy that this could happen but it did and ruined how many lives.keep writing and i will keep reading.I received this book free as part of This was such an emotional book to read ,seeing what can really happen at some of these so called schools and survival programs its scary.i will read all of the books in this series and support any way i can the need for control and monitoring of these programs so all our children have a fair chance.I live in the area with the kids for cash scandal and it is crazy that this could happen but it did and ruined how many lives.keep writing and i will keep reading.I received this book free as part of goodreads giveaways.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laura Crocker

    A true story about a young man's stay at a CEDU school. CEDU had schools for 'troubled' teens in the 1980s- early 2000s. Interesting and fast paced. A true story about a young man's stay at a CEDU school. CEDU had schools for 'troubled' teens in the 1980s- early 2000s. Interesting and fast paced.

  22. 4 out of 5

    TLCH

    Heartbreaking The heartbreaking true tale of 14 yr old Zack Bonnie, a kid testing his boundaries and his parents' patience by drinking and smoking pot, getting into fights at school, being kicked out of school and running away from summer camps and programs designed to correct behavioral issues. His parents send him to CEDU, a behavioral correction camp in Idaho, far from his home in Virginia. This is a 30 month "tough love" program where students are allowed to swear all they want and smoke ciga Heartbreaking The heartbreaking true tale of 14 yr old Zack Bonnie, a kid testing his boundaries and his parents' patience by drinking and smoking pot, getting into fights at school, being kicked out of school and running away from summer camps and programs designed to correct behavioral issues. His parents send him to CEDU, a behavioral correction camp in Idaho, far from his home in Virginia. This is a 30 month "tough love" program where students are allowed to swear all they want and smoke cigarettes on the porch, but not allowed to listen to any music except what the camp plays, not allowed to wear comfortable clothes or clothing with logos, not allowed to eat except at meal times, and forced to perform hard manual labor, among other strict, sometimes ridiculous rules. They have 4 hour "raps" 3 days a week that are meant to break the kids down emotionally, where they're yelled at, called names, made fun of, bullied, and encouraged to tell on each other for the slightest things, causing some kids to lie about other kids just to be shown some favor and take the heat off of themselves. Bonnie reveals the emotional turmoil and suicidal thoughts caused by this program and his desperate hope to get back home. This is one part of his story, there are future books, but it gives a good idea of the kind of programs out there aimed at "correcting" behaviors in teens and how I'll regulated they are and how they suck parents in. These are for-profit programs - the cost to Zack's parents in 1988 was $4,000. My heart broke for Zack and other kids in this book. I could never put a loved one, let alone a child, through the kind of torture portrayed in this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shari Risoff

    Zack Bonnie’s heart-wrenching memoir is one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time, and this is just the first book in the series. As a troubled and defiant 14-year old, his parents chose to ship him off to a boot camp of sorts – a ‘school’ for behavior modification, which was actually a cult-like community with devastating psychological mind control to break the spirit of the kids. There were parts that were difficult to read, that I had to scan, and several f-bombs, but the accurat Zack Bonnie’s heart-wrenching memoir is one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time, and this is just the first book in the series. As a troubled and defiant 14-year old, his parents chose to ship him off to a boot camp of sorts – a ‘school’ for behavior modification, which was actually a cult-like community with devastating psychological mind control to break the spirit of the kids. There were parts that were difficult to read, that I had to scan, and several f-bombs, but the accurate story couldn’t be told without those things. What was most heartening to me is that the author survived the horror – and that he wrote about it both as catharsis for himself, and to help others. And from reading his bio, that he found his true self despite the pain. I am waiting for the next book, eager to see the ending unfold. Thank God this RMA place is out of business! I am hopeful that the message of this book exposes any other such ‘schools’ that still exist.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This is a memoir of a young man's experiences at a CEDU school. It seems that the parents are the villains in this remarkable life story because all through the book I wonder where they are and what kind of parenting is it to send your child away and not wish to have any contact other than a few hastily written letters. I would have been interested in a more complete background so I could understand exactly how and why they chose to pack their child away to schools that were clearly inappropriat This is a memoir of a young man's experiences at a CEDU school. It seems that the parents are the villains in this remarkable life story because all through the book I wonder where they are and what kind of parenting is it to send your child away and not wish to have any contact other than a few hastily written letters. I would have been interested in a more complete background so I could understand exactly how and why they chose to pack their child away to schools that were clearly inappropriate. I got glimpses but a poor understanding of the situation. Nevertheless, the experiences of this 14 year old child are certainly bizarre and I certainly felt his distress. The CEDU school provided a bizarre coming of age experience for a young man who was crying out for love and structure and a normal family home life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Burns

    Horrifying tale, of schools supposed to help troubled youth This was horrifying, scary, sickening to read. What Zack & the other kids went through, was various forms of torture. The parents were deceived, and paid $$$$$ for their kids to be abused. I gave it this rating, because toward the middle, parts of the story seemed to be repetitious, i.e. raps.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aletha Pagett

    This was an horrific accounting of a young boy's 3o months of horror in a teen reeducation camp. The language was raw, the story heartbreaking. This was an horrific accounting of a young boy's 3o months of horror in a teen reeducation camp. The language was raw, the story heartbreaking.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    TWO BOOKS ABOUT THE SAME THING - TWO DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES This book was okay, but I didn't think this book was as good as THE DISCARDED ONES (which I think was the first book ever written about Cedu?) which I read a couple of years ago. Whereas DIOIJ clearly had an agenda from page one, I think The Discarded Ones was a better representation of how it must have felt to go to one of these schools without a pre-conceived notion. In this book, the author is setting out to illustrate the horrors of TWO BOOKS ABOUT THE SAME THING - TWO DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES This book was okay, but I didn't think this book was as good as THE DISCARDED ONES (which I think was the first book ever written about Cedu?) which I read a couple of years ago. Whereas DIOIJ clearly had an agenda from page one, I think The Discarded Ones was a better representation of how it must have felt to go to one of these schools without a pre-conceived notion. In this book, the author is setting out to illustrate the horrors of his experience and I felt it left the reader little room to form their own opinion. Granted, the Discarded Ones was told as a novel and thus was a more engaging experience that allowed the reader to ask "what would I do?" and DIOIJ is a memoir of one person's experience so it leaves little room for "how would I handle it?" It was okay, don't get me wrong, but I guess I thought it was going to let the reader take the roller coaster ride themselves rather than force a perspective for the sake of a crusade. Whereas Discarded Ones felt like a sad but wondrous trip through a haunted house, DIOIJ felt like ammo for activists. I guess it depends on why you're reading it? To justify your opinion of these type of schools? Or (as in the case of Discarded Ones) to feel how it felt at the very moment of a kid's disbelief and confusion.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jayson Whitehead

    To read Zack's book is to go down a horrific rabbit hole with him as his parents drop him off at a teen re-education camp. In descriptive first-hand text, we follow his 14-year-old self as he undergoes mental, physical, and emotional torture, only to emerge near the end resigned to the next two and a half years of his life but determined to outlast and maybe even subvert his persecutors. I can't wait to read the next installment. To read Zack's book is to go down a horrific rabbit hole with him as his parents drop him off at a teen re-education camp. In descriptive first-hand text, we follow his 14-year-old self as he undergoes mental, physical, and emotional torture, only to emerge near the end resigned to the next two and a half years of his life but determined to outlast and maybe even subvert his persecutors. I can't wait to read the next installment.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    Meh The story started off strong and engaged me but it was very repetitive. Could’ve summarized this book in about 100 pages or less.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julia Falk

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