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RULES OF THE ROAD by Joan Bauer

RULES OF THE ROAD

By Joan Bauer

Age Range: 12 - 15

Pub Date: April 13th, 1998
ISBN: 0-399-23140-4
Publisher: Putnam

 A high-school student with a passion for selling shoes may be a hard sell to teenagers, but Bauer (Sticks, 1996, etc.) makes 16-year-old, too-tall Jenna Boller a convincing narrator in this story of love and loss in the shoe business. President and owner of shoe stores from Chicago to Texas, the elderly Mrs. Gladstone appoints Jenna, who works in one of the stores, her personal driver. As the Chicago skyline recedes, Jenna and her companion head for the Lone Star state and a stockholders' meeting, taking in shoe stores from Peoria to Little Rock, where Mrs. Gladstone uncovers not only a decline in the quality of shoes being sold, but her son's plot for a company takeover. Sharp dialogue and caustic commentary from Jenna mark the journey, which lags somewhere around Kansas; revitalizing the plot is the entrance of Harry Bender, world's greatest shoe salesman. Through him and others, Jenna learns much more than the rules of the road ("Never eat at a place called MOM'S, because it's a safe bet Mom's been dead for years'') and business acumen. Jenna's alcoholic father hovers in the background, more plot manipulation than fully realized character, but his presence throws Jenna's new maturity into relief. It's an unlikely hero's journey, and Bauer's dry humor assures readers that all's well that ends wellif not in corporate takeovers, at least in the business of growing up. (Fiction. 12-15)