Picks and Pans Review: Fugitive Blue

updated 01/18/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Dani Shapiro

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)

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