Puppy Love

Puppy LovePuppy Love is the third novel I’ve read from the Romantic Comedies from Simon Pulse. Like Dancing Queen, I think it’s definitely for older readers.

It’s the story of high school senior Alana—chronic volunteer—and her friend Stella—evangelistic environmentalist—and the boys in their lives. Alana works as a dog-walker for the very wealthy in New York City; although she loves the animals, she often complains about how spoiled her charges are, especially when compared to the kids at the shelter where she volunteers. Most of her friends, struggling financially and passionate about making the world a better place, join in her ridicule of the people she works for.

When Alana’s boyfriend of three years goes off to college, he ends up changing from a rally-attending activist to a business major. He’s also becomes a jealous two-timing jerk, and eventually they break up.  Alana meets a new amazing hot guy who seems too good to be true, and in the end it turns out he’s the son of one of the families Alana dog-walks for. Convinced he’s been horribly dishonest with her (although many of the things she thinks he told her were actually assumptions she made) she breaks up with him. Can she overcome her own biases to get back together with this great guy? I’ll let you guess.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


Alana and Stella look out for each other—which sometimes means being prepared to lie to parents about where the other one is. They also call each other on bad choices, such as ditching the perfect guy because he isn’t who you imagined he was. They see each other’s faults, yet they support each other throughout the travails of the story.


Alana’s boyfriend is a freshman in college, and he asks her to meet him at a bar where he’s drinking with his (presumably) underage friends. She turns down a beer mostly because she knows her parents will get upset if she comes home with beer breath, but the excuse she gives is that she has a big day the next day, because she doesn’t want to seem childish. I definitely got the impression is that if her parents weren’t an issue, she’d have let herself be pressured into a drink she didn’t want.

Sneaking around

Alana has apparently previously lied to her parents about where she is, and she thinks it’s no big deal. When she meets her boyfriend at the bar, it feels different because she knows she shouldn’t be in the bar—lying to her parents and having Stella prepared to lie to them isn’t really the issue.


Technically this book stays PG, although it’s racier than the other two books I’ve read from the Romantic Comedies line. There’s a good bit of heavy kissing. Alana has some pretty lusty feelings, and she avoids going to Connor’s apartment because she doesn’t trust herself alone with him in a place with a bed.

When Stella meets Alana’s friend Leo, they’re “making out” quite heavily within hours of setting eyes on each other. There’s a joke that Leo—a fellow dog-walker—is a “barker” because of sounds coming from the room, so I can’t help but think that in an earlier draft they were more explicitly doing things that go beyond my definition of “making out.” Or maybe I just lack imagination.

The idea of “chemistry” is a big deal. When Alana and her long-term boyfriend break up, she’s more relieved than devastated because the chemistry just isn’t there anymore. She’s immediately attracted to Connor (with a good bit of talk about just how very hot he is), and in the end there isn’t anything really wrong with him—they are that perfect together. Early on it’s obvious that Leo has a crush on Alana, but when he spontaneously kisses her, he also feels nothing because the chemistry just isn’t there. With Stella, on the other hand, it’s a totally different story. As long as there’s chemistry, everything else will apparently fall into place.


Any of the characters we should have any sympathy for are involved in the community in some way. They volunteer for recycling programs, dog adoptions, and shelters for abused moms and kids. They spend their vacations cleaning up communities ravaged by natural disasters and they go to D.C. for political rallies. They may not have a lot of money, but they give a lot of their time. Alana’s parents are both Legal Aid attorneys, sacrificing money to do what’s right.

In the end, Alana realizes that there’s good in giving money, too, and she shouldn’t look down on the rich people who donate to good causes, even if they don’t volunteer.


Alana looks down on the owners of the dogs she walks and the other owners she meets in the dog parks. Because of their various forms of activism and community involvement, Alana, Stella, and Leo all have a moral high ground. When Alana’s old boyfriend leaves that behind for a (gasp!) business major, he definitely becomes less of a person in their eyes.

Connor, although he does come from a rich family, is on the outs with his socialite parents and he’s following his dream of being a photographer. He adopts one of the mutts from the shelter where Alana and Leo have volunteered. Therefore, he gets to be an exception to this. Of course, it takes Alana a while to realize why he wasn’t upfront with her about the fact that he’s from one of those families she’s been ridiculing. Stella bluntly tells Alana that they’re both judgmental, saying they’re “reverse snobs” and that Alana should give Connor a chance since he seems to be different from all those other rich people. At a posh fundraiser for the dog shelter, Alana realizes that important causes need money as well as time, so she begins to rethink her prejudice.


It’s mild, but it’s enough that it would make my kid uncomfortable. “Hell” is used several times, as is “sexy.” (Admittedly, I wouldn’t even notice except that she’s started calling me on not noting words that are inappropriate for school.)

There’s a lot of frank talk about the dogs pooping, peeing, and sniffing butts. There’s a scandal when one of the purebred dogs from the dog park gets pregnant by another dog and has mixed breed puppies. The owner is so shamed she can’t even face the other dog owners.


This is definitely a book aimed more at teenagers than at tweens. I’ll admit, I’m not sure where this novel fits—by the time this book is appropriate, I’d think most readers have moved on to adult romances. It also assumes a world where sneaking around and underage drinking are the norm.

But overall it’s a fine book for readers whose understanding of male/female relations has moved into that vast middle ground between the excitement of holding hands with that cute boy and the knowledge of the technicalities of how babies are made. But most tweens I know aren’t quite there yet.


Puppy Love by Nancy Krulik
Published in 2008 by Simon Pulse
Part of the Romantic Comedies line
Borrowed from BooksFree

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