Picks and Pans Review: How to Breathe Underwater

updated 10/13/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/13/2003 01:00AM

By Julie Orringer
SHORT STORIES

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If the Britney Spears film Crossroads is your idea of a powerful coming-of-age tale, this book may be too much for you. Gritty and gorgeously rendered, Orringer's short stories uncover the dark, electric world of young girls on the cusp of woman-hood. "The Isabel Fish" depicts a teen's struggle with guilt at being the sole survivor of a car crash; "Note to Sixth-Grade Self" captures the anguish of a girl desperate to belong. Orringer's heroines share their sorrows with unflinching candor, yet the pain is tempered by humor. Growing up is hard to do, but under Orringer's masterful care, these young girls—imperfect, broken and searching—find ways to thrive.

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