How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer Penguin $124 There's nothing that hasn't been done before in this debut collection of coming-of-age stories, but Julie Orringer writes so well that it glows with freshness. She explores how young women survive in situations that threaten to drown them - as victims of bullies, after surviving traumas, and dealing with a parent's illness. In Stars of Motown Shining Bright, two teenage girls run away from home and return when their plan goes wrong, before anyone has noticed they've gone. 'I feel sorry for our parents,' one says. 'They have no idea what goes on.' In Pilgrims, after an orphaned girl falls from a tree and dies, the burial is described in the frank, concrete sentences of a child and then the story resumes as if it had never happened. Although the characters often deal with misery, Orringer keeps the mood upbeat. Events tend to turn out well in the end, and humour is sprinkled throughout.