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BOOK REVIEW: Locked In by Victoria Arlen

"I will use my voice to change the world, spreading hope, spreading love, and spreading life, 'cause the world needs that."

I first learned about Victoria Arlen when she appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Learning about her story was heart-breaking but so inspiring. I started following her on Instagram and eventually learned she had written a book. I kept meaning to read it, but just never got around to it. Over Thanksgiving, I decided to download some memoirs to read on the trip back from Alabama and this book was available, so I immediately downloaded it. I recently finished it, and I have a lot of thoughts.

If you've never heard of Victoria Arlen, let me give you a little history. When she was 11, she fell into a mysterious vegetative state. When she was 13, her mind once again was awake, but she could not let anyone know. It wasn't until she was 15 that she was finally able to blink her eyes, which lead to her regaining the use of most of her body. However, she had to use a wheelchair until she learned to walk again at the age of 21. This book tells the story of Victoria's life, from before her vegetative state to the Paralympics to Dancing with the Stars and everything in between.

Now, for Victoria's journey, I don't know a person who could say Victoria had it easy. I didn't know much about Victoria's health except what I had learned on Dancing with the Stars. When I learned the physical and mental abuse she endured in places meant to help her heal infuriated me. I cannot understand how people, let alone a healthcare facility, can treat someone so poorly and then excuse their behavior by saying they were doing it to push her to get better. Then to learn that if doctors had recognized the symptoms of her disease, none of her ordeal would have happened just made my jaw drop.

Throughout this book, there were many things that came to mind. One is how Victoria's family had the ability to obtain treatment for her, including specialists. Once she had come out of her vegetative state, she talks a lot about how she used sports to help her heal, both mentally and physically, and it again brought to mind how Victoria's family had the ability to support her in these endeavors, especially once she began to train for the Paralympics. Not everyone who is disabled has these support systems, so I was excited to learn that Victoria has an organization called Victoria's Victory Foundation, which helps others get medical devices, home and vehicle adaptations, and training and recovery sessions to become more independent.

"I am busy, but I'm not going anywhere." This really stuck out to me since I recently listened to Brené Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection (yes, I'm talking about this book again), in which she talks about being deliberate with our time. Victoria talks about how she was so busy, but what was she really doing to move toward her goals? I feel like we've all been in this situation before and a reminder can help us get back to being deliberate with our time.

Now, if you decide this book sounds like something you'd be interested in reading, go into it understanding this book was written by Victoria and not someone with years of experience writing professionally. While she had the help of editors and such, a professional biographer could have possibly helped Victoria share her story in a way that progressed more smoothly as there are some time jumps that come out of nowhere (she's trying to relearn how to walk, then suddenly she's walking). Additionally, she writes the book from the perspective of herself throughout her journey. She uses terms such as "Mummy" and "tummy," and at times, it can sound a bit childish as she is writing about her experiences as a child and teenager who missed many crucial years in emotional development.

Despite these critiques, I gave Locked In four stars. It's a quick read, and it definitely kept my attention. If you’d like to see what I’m reading now, check out my Goodreads or follow us on Instagram and Facebook! If you’re excited to see what other topics we’ll be covering in the coming months, make sure to subscribe. Thanks for reading with me!

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