Luke Riley falls into the category of fairly average boys. He’s a bit sweeter, smarter and more nervous than the usual, but I wouldn’t say his in the realm of genius. Luke’s family has been on edge ever since his mother’s death, which has left Luke feeling guilty and his father and twin brothers snapping at him. What his family shares is a strong love of dogs, but Luke’s the odd one out again, because he doesn’t want a bloodhound like his dad and brothers have; he wants a papillon.
In order to take up the offer of the pick of the litter from a local breeder, the only way his family can afford such a well-bred dog with the loss of his mother’s salary, Luke takes a summer job working at Storm Watch, working for Willajean, a dog breeder. She raises bloodhounds, papillons and german shepherds, and Luke has to decide between choosing the puppy he wants or the puppy his dad wants him to want.
The best part for me by far was reading about Luke’s work at the breeder’s. Now, obviously, this isn’t one of those terrible puppy farms; they have a fairly small number of dogs and treat them really well. Basically, I’m a little bit sad that I don’t have a dog right now (though don’t tell my cat, Perseus), because this book made me want to hug all of the dogs. The training tips in here are also super interesting, and I really, really want to teach some dogs to play tag and hide and seek now.
Though the dogs are definitely the highlight of the book, Snyder throws in a lot of lessons about family and facing one’s fears. Luke’s family has to learn how to deal with the tragedy of their mother’s loss and to learn how to deal with one another again. Willajean and her daughters, snobby Alayna and awesome Megan, have to figure out whether they can trust the girls’ dad, who once betrayed them. Then there’s Luke, who has to deal with his phobia of storms if he ever wants a real shot at being a meteorologist, which he might want to be someday.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The one thing that I really didn’t care for was the way that Luke’s brothers are written. The twins make endless stupid jokes, which is probably true for teenage boys, but seriously I hated them. Then they have this out-of-nowhere change of heart and are magically decent. Their character arc was not solid enough for me, though I guess how much do I expect in less than two hundred pages.
The Final Verdict:
Dog lovers definitely need to read this one, and I know my childhood self would have been all over this. When I was young, my dad would have read this one with me, because we shared a love of dogs; the horse books I read with mom.