“I can’t save a whole planet. I can’t save anybody. I’m just an ordinary girl.”
Just finished reading The Dream of the Stone by Christina Askounis, which although it fits the GU archetype extremely well, was only a mediocre story in my opinion, a pale imitation of A Wrinkle in Time.
When her parents both die in a plane crash, Sarah (14) is exiled to the city to live with relatives. She longs to be reunited with her brother Sam, but he is living across the country, working for a sinister organization called CIPHER, where he uses his scientific genius to overcome the boundaries of space. Sarah begins to have strange episodes where she sees a layer of ugliness beneath the facade of everyday life. An old woman keeps appearing in odd places to warn and guide her. She meets a young Gypsy boy, Angel, who becomes her companion on her adventure. Then her brother sends her an enigmatic stone and urges her to protect it, which puts her in danger.
The stone is the key to everything, as it turns out, and is highly coveted by the evil Dr. Zvalus from CIPHER. (He is her adversary – although the destructive Umbra that threatens the universe and controls Zvalus is a greater, if more nebulous, adversary – but interestingly, Zvalus perceives Sarah as his adversary as well, a perspective not often explored.) She flees Zvalus and his henchman and embarks on a terrifying journey to rescue her brother and return to the stone to the Door on another planet. (As is often the case, her goal is dual – to rescue a family member, and to save the world.)
She meets a friend and guide on the otherworld, a sentient tree named Miladras. She is also continually helped by the mysterious woman she first met on Earth. She is reunited with her brother Sam, and accompanied by her new love Angel. Together they face off against Zvalus, who is becoming something other than human. They must find the stone before he does, and return it to the Door.
At one point, she almost becomes lost in an illusion of her old home and her life before the death of her parents (combining the “return briefly to home” and “loses sense of herself” themes typical of GU stories). As she was warned before, “there is danger in your heart’s desire.” She must let go of that longing in order to succeed on her quest.
In the end, she faces the Umbra alone, which tries to overwhelm her with negativity – she counters this with her faith in Love (common, if a little sappy). This time it is her companion, Angel, who is revealed to be More than was known, and Sarah and her brother are returned home safely.
(This book, by the way, is rife with Alice/Looking Glass references, which is quite common in Girls Underground books – clearly these authors are aware of their debt to one of the original and quintessential examples of the archetype!)