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Rules of the Road Hardcover – May 4, 1998

151 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Funny young adult writers are a rare treasure, and Joan Bauer is one of the funniest. Critics and young readers rejoiced at her three previous novels--Squashed, Thwonk, and Sticks--and with Rules of the Road, she has written a story that is wise and touching as well as comical. Jenna Boller is too tall for a sophomore and she's not much good in school. Her sister Faith got all the looks in the family, but boy, can Jenna sell shoes! She's supremely happy at her after-school job at Gladstone's, where the big white sign over the door says "We're Not Just Selling Shoes, We're Selling Quality." When elderly Mrs. Madeline Gladstone, the crusty president of the company, chooses Jenna as her driver on a business trip to visit other Gladstone's stores, Jenna goes reluctantly--with trepidation at driving the huge Cadillac, and at the prospect of leaving her alcoholic father behind. But on the road, Jenna learns "great road truths" such as "Never eat at a place called Mom's, because it's a safe bet Mom's been dead for years." She also proves to be indispensable (possessing an eagle eye for shoddy quality and sloppy service), and soon learns to admire and love the irascible Mrs. Gladstone as well as her old friend, "World's Best Shoe Salesman" Harry Bender. When Harry dies suddenly, Jenna realizes that she wishes he had been her father. Trouble looms in the form of a company takeover by Mrs. Gladstone's sleazy son, Elden, "Shoe Rodent," but Jenna summons courage from Harry's memory and saves the day for quality shoes. Rules of the Road is a treat that will utterly delight readers. (Age 12 and older) --Patty Campbell

From Publishers Weekly

Bauer's novel about an earnest teenager who chauffeurs a crabby, wealthy woman has the underpinnings of a quirky Driving Miss Daisy, but the story quickly runs out of gas. Sixteen-year-old Jenna Boller has the world by the tail. She's just received her driver's license and she loves her job at Gladstone's Shoe Store. Even better, she's been tapped to drive Mrs. Madeline Gladstone, the imposing president of the shoe store chain, from Chicago to Dallas for an important shareholders meeting. During the road trip Jenna gets a chance to demonstrate her passion for shoe salesmanship at various Gladstone stores; she also learns of Elden Gladstone's plan to push his mother aside in favor of a major merger. While Jenna educates herself in the ways of big business and dealing with difficult people, she also ruminates about her alcoholic father, her ailing grandmother and her mom and sister waiting at home. She arrives back in Chicago both braver and wiser. As in Squashed, Bauer begins with an intriguing premise, weaves in unusual settings and scenarios and creates an offbeat first-person narrator to relay them. But a supporting cast of stock characters and forced dialogue may disappoint readers of her previous novels. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 4 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 850L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile; English Language edition (May 4, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399231404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399231407
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,018,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joan Bauer has won numerous awards for her twelve (soon to be thirteen) novels for young readers, among them, the Newbery Honor Medal, the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award, two Christopher Awards, the LA Times Book Prize, the Chicago Tribune Young adult Literary Prize, the Golden Kite Award of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and most recently, the St. Katherine Drexel Award of the Catholic Library Association. A NY Times Best-selling author, speaker, and songwriter, she has been a guest on local and national radio shows, and she has been sent to both Croatia and Kazakhstan by the State Department as part of its Professional Speakers Program to speak at schools, universities, libraries, and writers' groups. 

Joan has also been a recipient of the Judy Lopez Memorial Award; the ASTAL Award for Outstanding Contributions to Literature for Young People; the Michigan Thumbs-up! Award for Children's Literature; the Delacorte Prize for a First Young Adult Novel; the Pacific Northwest Library Association Award; the New Jersey Reading Association M. Jerry Weiss Award; the New England Booksellers Award; and the Boston Public Library's "Literary Light" Award. Her novels have been nominated extensively for state book awards, in addition to appearing on  ALA Notable Books, ALA Best Books, ALA Quick Picks, American Bookseller Pick of the List, School Library Journal Best Books, Smithsonian Notable Children's Books, VOYA's Perfect 10s. Her novel Rules of the Road was chosen as one of the top young adult books of the quarter century by the American Library Association. Her thirteenth novel, Soar, will be published in January 2016.

Joan is a member of the Writers Guild of America East, the Authors Guild, PEN, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Evan and their intrepid wheaten terrier Max. She enjoys cooking, playing the piano, hiking, songwriting, and ice skating (as long as she has enough time for a slow stop).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jackie Maibach on January 12, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Rules of the Road was included as one of the required texts for our Reading and Writing Festival to be held in the spring. As a teacher, I am thrilled that a book focusing on the inner strengths of a 16-year-old girl was included. Sure, there are myriads of books addressing heroines -- but this book is different. We get a sense of Jenna's dismay with adolescence; she deals with divorce, alcoholism, and loneliness with a unique sense of charm and wit. We hear Jenna's voice maturing throughout the saga of driving to Texas -- and are charmed by her relationship with her aging boss. What book have you read lately that addresses respect for elders, discusses the horrors of alcoholism, the sadness of Alzheimers, and the inequities of being young, and even integrates a lesson in economics! All in a rambunctious, lively dialogue emanating from the soul of a young lady who I would love to have in my classroom. I tend to "read-between-the-lines" of every dialogue journal I review after reading such a moving book. Thank you, Joan Bauer.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 3, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I'm an adult/female who reviews dozens of middle grade and young adult books as part of my job. I haven't been this enthusiastic about a book since "The Agony of Alice." I laughed out loud and had tears in my eyes..all within a few pages! Joan Bauer touches upon the traditional teenage concerns...feeling awkward & ugly at times and being an outsider at school. Everyone, no matter what age they are now, will relate to Jenna's feelings. But, more importantly, the relationship between Jenna, the "smart" 17 year-old, and Mrs. Gladstone, the ageless 73 year-old, will convince you that there are are no age limits on friendship.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I've read two of Joan Bauers books, this one and Backwater, and I really liked this one more, especially because of the narrator! She was really believable with a lot of spirit, and humor. All the other characters were fabulous too. Some people might not like the way in Bauer books how each main character has their "thing" (like in Squashed, it was growing pumpkins/agriculture, or Backwater, the girl was obsessed w/ history) but Jenna's drive here (shoes and selling) brought the story up, instead of in Backwater, where I thought it slowed the story down. DEFINITELY, DEFINITELY read this one!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Joan Bauer's funny and unforgettable character, Jenna makes up for her self-perceived lack of beauty and confidence with wit and amazing grace in the face of her father's alcoholism, her employer's cranky personality; Jenna's insight is often hilarious, always profound. When Jenna takes on the task of driving ancient Madeline Gladstone to Texas, readers will be thankful they came along for the ride! The messages are clear for everyone to explore, but this book is a must-read for young people struggling with drug-abuse issues in their home.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Luciano VINE VOICE on March 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
Jenna doesn't do well in school, and she isn't happy with the fact that she is so tall. Her little sister is the beautiful one in the family. Jenna does have one talent, though. She is excellent at selling. Specifically, she is excellent at selling shoes, which is her part-time job. She loves working at Gladstone's shoe store, a store that prizes quality service and quality products.

This summer it seems that Jenna's life is about to become more complicated. Her alcoholic father, often gone for years at a time, is back in town and trying to get in touch with Jenna. Jenna knows that means he will be calling at all hours after he has been drinking and showing up to see her at work and at home. She doesn't know how she will handle him this time.

Then a wonderful opportunity presents itself. The aging president of the company, a grumpy woman who can't seem to accept that she is getting older, needs to travel extensively to visit some of her shoe stores and attend important meetings. She doesn't like to fly, so she needs someone to drive her across the country. She takes a liking to Jenna and, surprisingly enough, Jenna's mom agrees to let her go.

Thus starts an adventure Jenna would never have dreamed. Mrs. Gladstone is grumpy and snappy, but Jenna begins to really like her and even learns how to talk her into things. On this trip Jenna learns that Mrs. Gladstone's son is trying to take over the company and turn it into a discount place that sells substandard shoes. Mrs. Gladstone isn't sure she can stop her son from taking over. But Jenna is pretty sure she can, and is willing to do whatever it takes to help.

I really liked the relationship between Jenna and Mrs. Gladstone. They were both strong and stubborn, and balanced each other well. I also liked that Jenna's home life wasn't perfect and her mother had a good reason for sending her on this trip. It was a well-written story of personal growth.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By yarden on May 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Jenna Boller is the 16-year old heroine that we would all like to be: funny, gutsy, accepting of herself, secretly beautiful, strong. She's really good at selling shoes, and visits her Grandma at the nursing home. At the same time, she seems approachable, like an old pal, or your best friend. Someone you can hang out with, appreciate, and learn from.
At the same time, some of her antics seem really far-fetched for a 16-year old. Some of the more shocking things she does, however, don't serve to completely save the day, so I can forgive her for not doing what I expected. I appreciated that the author didn't take the easy way out -- she addressed several hard issues that many kids today have to face: alzheimer's, ageism, broken homes, parents who aren't perfect, and even death.
This is by far one of the best books for Young Adults I've read. I haven't met a heroine this promising since Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time.
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