Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Review: Unstoppable in Stilettos

Title: Unstoppable in Stilettos
Author: Lauren Ruotolo
Pages: 200
Date Published: October 1, 2010
Publisher: Health Communications, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-7573-1514-5
Genre: Memoir; Self-Help

Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4 out of 5

Publisher Summary: How does a girl who was originally predicted to live a wheelchair-bound existence become adventurous, self-assured, successful, and . . . unflappable? Standing 4 feet 2 inches tall in flats (which she would never be caught dead in, anyway), Lauren Ruotolo has spent her thirty-four-ish years seeing the world from a unique angle—upward facing. Lauren was born with McCune-Albright syndrome, a mysterious and rare genetic disease that researchers say occurs in anywhere between 1 in 100,000 and 1 in 1 million people. Some people with the condition tend to go the wheelchair route, but that was never a road Lauren wanted to travel. Her preferred method of transportation, instead, includes stiletto heels. Lauren has avoided the label of 'disabled' through uniquely discovering who she really is, and now you, too, can learn the secrets to living life in a big way.

In Unstoppable in Stilettos, Lauren offers you 'Lauren's Lessons,' in which she shares her hard-earned wisdom and life experiences to offer you a unique brand of life philosophies that you can apply to any of the rights of passages you may be experiencing as a Twenty-first Century Woman, including:
Navigating social pressures
Avoiding the label game
Overcoming insecurities
Combating career confusion
Turning rejection and obstacles into triumph
Dealing with toxic people
Discovering true self-expression
and so much more.
With Unstoppable in Stilettos you will have the tools to carve out your own path to self-confidence, success, and individualism . . . and have a blast along the way.

My Thoughts: Lauren Ruotolo's Unstoppable in Stilettos is an inspirational combination memoir and self help book. Throughout she gives very good, helpful and practical advice which comes from her experiences in life. Ms. Ruotolo's would be called accomplished even if she wasn't disabled, and the obstacles she is continually overcoming are substantial and nothing to be scoffed at. I should know. I have the very same rare bone disease as Ms. Ruotolo, namely, McCune-Albright's Syndrome. It's this commonality that gives me a somewhat unique perspective when reviewing this book.

I have great admiration for all that Lauren has done, "making it" in her chosen field of entertainment. Her charismatic attitude is an "in your face" tsunami. She refuses to be put down or held back. The fact that she doesn't care if people are put off by her demeanor and determination is a big part of her charm and an even bigger reason for her successes. From a young age, Ms. Ruotolo was determined not to be labeled as disabled and to not "give in" to the disease. She shunned a wheelchair despite the advice of doctors, who were advocating a policy of "better safe than sorry". She worked with a physical therapist to strengthen her muscles in the hopes this would help her bones. Her parents supported her and helped her make these difficult choices which turned out for the best. Ms. Ruotolo learned from her mom and dad to question doctors, to stand up for herself when someone said she couldn't do something and most important of all, to persevere.

Although our lives have taken divergent paths, I can relate to many of the challenges Ms. Ruotolo faced to get where she is. McCune-Albright's is extremely rare as Ms. Ruotolo explains. Currently, very little is known about it. Even less thirty years ago, making treatment a guessing game for doctors. The disease varies greatly person to person and, combined with its rarity (according to wrongdiagnosis.com, there are less than two hundred thousand known cases in the U.S.) the result has been researchers and pharmaceutical companies have little interest in the disease. Like Ms. Ruotolo, I feel the stares of people on the streets. I experienced the hardships of getting a job and I've known the prejudices of ignorant adults (children, interestingly, are rarely a problem!) that come with this particularly complicated disease. It would only be natural that I found the memoir aspect of Unstoppable in Stilettos fascinating, having known only a few people with McCune-Albrights, and enjoyed reading about Lauren Ms. Ruotolo's "big" life. And, if I'm honest and try to remove my personal connection with the author, I think most people would feel that sense of interest and shared triumph reading about her life. In other words, you don't have to be disabled to enjoy the book and connect with Lauren's overcoming obstacle after obstacle.

Unforgettable in Stilettos is filled with interesting, entertaining anecdotes and plenty of helpful advice. Ms. Ruotolo's experiences in life and the obstacles she's faced have taught her many optimal lessons about living life that she wants to pass on to others. She offers great advice on a variety of situations most of us encounter. The chapters "Naysayers and Non-Doers and Why I Don't Associate With Them" and "Pay Your Dues" provide several key points about finding the right job and excelling in your career. "Coupla Things About Coupling" discusses coping with the pitfalls of dating and how to learn to love yourself first. Though Ms. Ruotolo doesn't say so, I think it's important to note that although her obstacles are numerous and major, they are no more important than the challenges others confront. In other words, the degree of difficulty anyone faces is relative to them. Whether you are facing the loss of a job, a break-up or life-threatening surgery, Ms. Ruotolo's positive points are applicable and very helpful.

Ms. Ruotolo's voice is positive and upbeat throughout the book. But I had some difficulty with her writing style. It's a bit choppy and opaque at times, making it hard to follow or understand points she's trying to convey at various places in the book. Take this sentence, for example: "Too many women get so caught up in the self-examination/self-hatred game that they don't look good for the things that do fit them well and compliment them in every way." At times it seems as if Ms. Ruotolo is so excited to offer guidance on living life the best way possible that her words become jumbled and her ideas somewhat confusing. Nevertheless, her energy is infectious and she shares some invaluable lessons.

I also found Ms. Ruotolo's advice hampered by two kinds of contradictions throughout the book which often left me confused. The first kind are specific examples. Ms. Ruotolo talks about "identifying someone as 'something' or placing them in a group category that reeks of judgment and hypocrisy", but then, in at least two instances, she herself is guilty of applying labels to others. One is in connection with a doctor whom she labels based solely on his looks: she's waiting to meet a top neurosurgeon when a young, small, black man dressed in scrubs comes to talk to her and her mother. Ms. Ruotolo, expecting someone more like Brad Pitt riding in on a stallion, thinks the young, small black man is an intern. But he is the top neurosurgeon.. Another is regarding a man with a limp who approaches and speaks to Ms. Ruotolo as she's walking with friends while on vacation in St. Lucia. Ms. Ruotolo calls him "homeless", which is every bit as much a label as "disabled"

The second kind is a contradiction that pervades the whole book. In the introduction, Ms. Ruotolo claims she is not pretending to be an expert on how to live. However, in countless instances she claims she "knows she's being a role model" while authoritatively dispensing advice in and at the end of every chapter. I found this lack of self awareness unsettling and it tends to undermine her integrity.

Ms. Ruotolo wants people to see and remember her for her personality and her shining inner qualities and not because she is a disabled, short girl with a big voice. I feel safe in saying we can all understand and relate to this. (I know I can!) But I was a little disappointed that she seemed so anxious to dismiss or 'hide" that she is handicapped with McCune-Albright's Syndrome. Hence the insistence on wearing heels and shunning a wheelchair, health consequences and comfort be damned. To me, it's a difference to be celebrated. I've had too many days when "why me?" went through my head. But I am who I am and have accomplished what I have in good part because of the McCune-Albright's Syndrome. It's obvious to whoever reads this book that fighting and conquering the obstacles that stood in her way made her who she is today! There is no shame in being disabled. Ms. Ruotolo's on the board of at least three charitable organizations that support girls and women, which is admirable and important, of course, and I'm sure time consuming. But, I hope the day comes when Ms. Ruotolo finds a way to apply her intelligence, personality and fight in support of the disabled as well. This book could have done that. There are only two instances where she begrudgingly acknowledges that her disease has played some role in helping to shape who she is. For the most part, however, she chooses to look at her success as something she's accomplished in spite of her disability, perhaps sending a mixed message to the physically challenged.

In Unstoppable in Stilettos, Ms. Ruotolo offers up inspiration and helpful advice along with an engrossing story. Although the writing in this fascinating book doesn't always flow smoothly, it's a small price to pay for the victories you get to share with the author. I think the advice and guidance provided in this book would be best suited for younger people, especially women, just starting out. But that doesn't mean one should discount the life lessons this soldier of adversity has gleaned in her amazing years so far. Even if Ms. Ruotolo's advice isn't for everyone, her infectious personality and charismatic attitude along with her amazing story make this a book for everyone!

I received a copy of Unstoppable in Stilettos through Lisa at TLC Book Tours.


  1. Your unique perspective made this such a fascinating review! I'm so impressed by your analysis. Thank you so much for being on the tour; we really appreciate it!

  2. Sounds like the author is quite inspirational and given that you suffer from the same disease you have some of your own insights to offer. I really liked your review and brought out your points while showing how the book could benefit a young person starting out.

  3. First off, I must admit right away that I didn't even look to see what this book was about when it was being offered as a tour book on the TLC site: the cover really doesn't appeal to me (I am very much not a fan of stilettos!). However, I loved your review, which is both personal and very analytical (the best of both worlds, as far as I'm concerned!). It sounds like an interesting read, although I suspect her desire to hide her disability would bother me as well.

  4. I'm sure this was a book you were very interested in reading because of your shared challenges. I think you did a fantastic review -- it was very balanced and I appreciated your insights and personal comments. I'm not sure this book is for me but you did a great job in helping people figure out if it is for them.