A fresh list of “honorable mentions” – stories that almost fit the archetype, but are missing crucial elements that prevent me from listing them as full GU examples.
Libyrinth by Pearl North
Haly, 15, is a clerk at a massive library on another planet in the future. She has a secret ability to hear the books speak in their own words. When the book-burning Eradicants threaten her home and the existence of all books, Haly travels with her companions (friend, mentor and little imp) on a quest to find a special, fabled book that might save them all. She is quickly captured, however, separated from her companions, and declared by the enemy to be something greater than she ever imagined. While Haly does solve the puzzle and stands up to her enemies, there is no clear adversary and she doesn’t rely much on her companions in any direct way until the end.
The Secret of Moonacre (film)
Newly orphaned, Maria goes to live with her prickly uncle at a distant estate, holding tight to a special book that was her only inheritance from her father. It tells the history of Moonacre, a place that seems like an otherworld but turns out to be woven into the land she now lives on. She must repair feuding families and claim her heritage. While Maria doesn’t always have clear companions, and doesn’t spend much time directly interacting with the main adversary (after it becomes clear that her uncle is hurt but not ultimately a bad person), I give this bonus points for her actually descending underground at one point, and for her final sacrifice. I also like that her companion later in the movie is a defector from the adversary’s side. This is based on the book The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, which I haven’t read.
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Siblings Kendra (13) and Seth spend two weeks with their grandparents, who are secretly caretakers of Fablehaven, a sanctuary for mythical creatures. Their grandmother is missing, and danger abounds. Seth’s curiosity constantly gets him in trouble, while Kendra spends her time unraveling the clues her grandfather leaves for her. Would be more of a GU story if Kendra was the sole protagonist, but it is actually her brother who makes the mistake. Though Kendra does have to rescue her family from an evil, and petitions a fairy queen for help. Beginning of a series, though I’ve only read the first book.
The Riddles of Epsilon by Christine Morton-Shaw
Jessica, 14, has just moved to a distant island in England and discovers century-old cryptic letters and a ghostly entity named Epsilon. She must solve clues to discover the source of her mother’s mental illness and save her, getting drawn into a classic battle of good versus evil.
A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
Faris is sent to Greenlaw college, a sort of finishing school with magic. She is expelled, along with her best friend and her enemy, for practicing magic on campus, which is forbidden. Faris soon discovers she is more than she ever imagined. She must repair the magical rift caused by her grandmother and assume her place as a guardian.
The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja
Maggy, 16, spends most of her days sketching the city’s inhabitants and watching life pass by, avoiding her drunken mother. Her only friend (and companion) is her cat Paz. One day she meets Cole, and quickly becomes obsessed with him, spending all her time with him even through cold nights on the street. But she eventually realizes that he is a creature beyond what she could have imagined.
Mazemaker by Catherine Dexter
Winnie makes the (understandable) mistake of navigating through a maze which is spray-painted on a city playground, but at the center she finds herself suddenly 100 years in the past (and now in a hedge maze). She must get back home while under the watchful eye of her caretakers’ housekeeper, who believes Winnie knows more than she is saying. (On a side note, I recently wrote about another of Dexter’s books, The Oracle Doll, on my religious blog.)