Middle Grade Review: Set Me Free (Ann Clare LeZotte)



About This Book:

A riveting standalone companion to the Schneider Family Book Award winner, Show Me a Sign by Deaf author and librarian, Ann Clare LeZotte.
“Instantly captivating…will keep readers hooked until the very end…A simultaneously touching and gripping adventure.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Full of adventure and twists…a gripping tale of historical fiction.” — Booklist

Three years after being kidnapped as a “live specimen” in a cruel experiment to determine the cause of her deafness, Mary Lambert has grown weary of domestic life on Martha’s Vineyard, and even of her once beloved writing.

So when an old acquaintance summons her to an isolated manor house outside Boston to teach a young deaf girl to communicate, Mary agrees. But can a child of eight with no prior language be taught? And is Mary up to the task? With newfound purpose, Mary arrives only to discover that there is much more to the girl’s story–and the circumstances of her confinement–than she ever could have imagined. Suddenly, teaching her and freeing her from the prison of her isolation, takes on much greater meaning, and peril.

Riveting and complex, delicately nuanced and fervently feminist, Set Me Free is a masterful stand-alone companion to Show Me a Sign, and a searing exposé of ableism, racism, and colonialism that will challenge you to think differently about the dignity and capacity within every human being.


* Review Contributed by Connie Reid, Site Manager*

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What I Loved: Set Me Free takes place three years after Mary’s kidnapping and rescue in Show Me a Sign. She has become restless as her friends move towards higher education and dating. Mary has mostly recovered from her ordeal, other than memories occasionally haunting her. Her cautious demeanor feels like a natural part of her recovery from trauma and what I felt the first book had ended without addressing.
She learns of an eight-year-old child on the mainland that has no language and lives nearly feral. She agrees to take a position in the household and try to help the child break out of the isolation that being noncommutative imposes on her. When she arrives, she is treated very strangely by the butler, Mr. Norwich. He keeps blocking her access to the child to the point that she has to sneak around to teach her. The child has been in an appalling condition. She is left in her filth and chained to the floor.
As Mary gains her trust, she realizes that the child may not have always been mute. She shows signs of strangulation. Mr. Norwich is determined to keep her from uncovering the truth and finally forces her from the property.
Mary goes to her friend Nancy, and with her and her uncle’s help, they get Beatrice the help she needs.
What Left Me Wanting More: The resolution to the story happens somewhat abruptly. We only get a glimpse of what happens to Mr. Norwich.
Final Verdict: This was a captivating read and a great sequel to Show Me a Sign that made her journey feel more complete. Given the conditions in which this child was subjected, this book would be better suited for older children in the middle grade range.
It was a thoughtful story in regards to how the ability to communicate informs so much of our place in society. It was especially poignant during the covid 19 pandemic when schools were shut down and many in the deaf community were left without the support and adaptions necessary to succeed and fully access their learning, much like our characters were dealing with in this book. It may have been a different time and circumstances but equal access to education continues to be a factor in vulnerable communities that correlates well to the story presented in this book.

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