Papercut Book Cover of "How to Breathe Underwater" by Julie Orringer

The next papercut book cover from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is Julie Orringer's collection of short stories, How to Breathe Underwater.

About the Book:

The problem with short stories is that they are short. I get that there’s a purpose to keeping a story short, but I find that when I read a good short story I am always left with wanting more. I want to know what happens next, I want more of the story. That’s how I felt after reading Julie Orringer’s collection of short stories in How to Breathe Underwater. Each story was well-written and engaging, and I just wanted more.

These short stories are all first-person narratives from a female perspective, with the main characters ranging in age from young child to young adult. Most of them were sad but poignant, dealing with loss, cancer, loss of innocence, and even just the simple fact that children can be so cruel to each other. I’m not sure that these stories fit exactly into the "coming of age" genre, but they are close. If the stories had been expanded into full novels, then most of the stories would have probably developed in that way. But as short stories, they are more like snapshots into childhood and young adulthood moments that formatively shaped each of the characters. I was impressed with how the author skillfully made each voice for each different story distinct. Again, the common thread through each story was the young female voice and the subject matter of real life difficulties encountered while growing up. I didn’t specifically resonant with any one story, but I still felt that I could relate as a female to most of them in some way. I loved this book, and each of the stories so much, that it just didn’t feel satisfying to have them end so quickly.

About the Papercut:

The title of this book of short stories is unusual and thought-provoking, so I knew I wanted to make a book cover that represented the title. The real book covers show girls swimming in a natural body of water. Instead of a swimming scene, I decided to go with the idea of a girl underwater. Papercutting hair is tricky, and papercutting hair underwater was even trickier! But I think it came out well.

Faces are difficult to papercut since everything needs to be connected, so to solve this problem, I moved the girls head down so that her mouth is beyond the end of the book. I thought this also captured the difficulty of breathing underwater. It’s as if the girl is sinking beyond view as she struggles to breathe underwater. The only problem with this design choice was that it becomes difficult to notice that some of the bubbles are coming from the girl’s tears, not only her mouth. That aspect of the design gets a little lost near the bottom of the book cover.  However, overall, I’m pleased with how the hair and bubbles turned out.

Next Book: Beowolf!

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