Summary: The Lost Language
The Lost Language centers around 6th grade Betsy and her best friend, Lizard (both girls are actually named Elizabeth!) who decide to save a disappearing language Guernsiais (spoken on the small Isle of Guernsey, off the coast of France). Betsy’s mom is a passionate linguist who — unbeknownst to Betsy — is also dealing with depression and anxiety. Lizard has always been a bit of a bossy, possessive friend, thanks to her assertive character. As the two girls work on the project together, cracks in their friendship begin to show and a near-tragedy in Betsy’s family threatens to tear them apart.
I LOVED this book — and that took me by surprise! I listened to the audiobook on Scribd and I was so hooked the entire time. Betsy is such a darling character. She’s sensitive, insightful, and really loves her family and her best friend. I did not like Lizard, but the author does a great job of providing nuance about Lizard’s at-home conditions and why she may have behaved the way she did. This isn’t quite a toxic friendship all the way, but a great example of how kids can demand better from their friends and resolve things where it’s possible to do so.
I found the language sub-plot fascinating and it’s a bit sad to hear how many languages simply won’t exist in time. Betsy’s mother has a noble job as a linguist but also seems high-strung and intense, part of which is because she’s dealing with anxiety and depression. Yet, she’s a good mother and she obviously cares for her family even though she’s struggling emotionally. I loved how supportive Betsy’s father is and the book does a great job of helping kids understand how mental illness works.
Finally, Betsy gets to be a part of a musical, even though she has a relatively small role, so this might be fun for readers who enjoy those storylines.
Overall: The Lost Language
The Lost Language is a thoughtful, engaging look into a changing friendship as one friend grows into herself. It also focuses on a unique theme — linguistics and saving dying languages, as well as the white-savior mentality and how it plays into saving languages. Finally, this is an excellent portrayal of a parent navigating mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. I loved this book and hate that it seems to have flown under the radar. Highly recommend!