Rules of The Road

I had the pleasure this weekend of reading Rules of the Road, by Joan Bauer (but if I'd known what a fun fast read it was going to be I would have saved it for the upcoming 48 hour reading challenge at MotherReader).

The basic plot is this--Jenna, a 16 girl working in a shoe store, is whisked away by the elderly woman, Mrs. Gladstone, who owns the shoe company and put behind the wheel of a Cadillac, heading south from Chicago the share holders' meeting in Dallas. On the way, they will be checking the various branches of the companies shoe stores, with Jenna playing the role of industry spy. Jenna is glad to be escaping from her alcoholic father, but nervous about her skills as a driver (as is the reader) -- "It is customary," says her employer, "to open the garage door before backing out" (or words to that effect--the book's at home, sorry). Mrs. Gladstone is worried because her son wants to oust her and start selling cheap shoes. Once on the road, Jenna and Mrs. Gladstone become friends, Jenna gains maturity and a new hair style, meets inspirational people, and saves the day at the shareholder's meeting. Mrs. Gladstone gets to stay on as Director of Quality. And finally, Jenna confronts her alcoholic father.

Plot-wise, it felt a bit as though "big issues" were stuck in to add depth; I wasn't much moved. It reminded me of a Meg Cabot novel--teenage girl in unrealistic situation rising to the occasion.

But what I really really liked was Jenna in her role of shoe salesman--knowledgeable, helpful, and brave. I loved all the shoe detail (and I am not a "shoe person"). I was sad that toward the end we didn't get to spend more time with Jenna inside shoe stores. And I am now a smidge worried about what my own low-end shoes are doing to my feet.

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