In Shapiro's arresting first novel, Playing with Fire, a college student becomes embroiled in an affair with her roommate's stepfather—and with her roommate. The alliances are scarcely less complicated in Fugitive Blue, which regretfully has more the coloration of a first novel—characters that don't breathe; thick empty prose.
Promising actress Joanna Hirsch, the abandoned teenage daughter of a celebrated sculptress, is in love with Billy Overmeyer, the boy down the street. Which wouldn't be such a problem except that Billy eventually becomes Joanna's stepbrother and is gay. Actually, things are even more complicated: Despite his sexual preferences, Billy returns Joanna's love.
A fitfully affecting novel about loss and the loss of innocence, Fugitive Blue succeeds most when at its least writerly. Too often, though, Shapiro gives in to a grandiosity that adds nothing but word count. (Doubleday, $20)