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.
See all Editorial Reviews
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.