Rules of the Road

by Joan Bauer

Paperback, 2000



Local notes

PB Bau




Puffin Books (2000), Edition: Reprint, 201 pages


Sixteen-year-old Jenna gets a job driving the elderly owner of a chain of successful shoe stores from Chicago to Texas to confront the son who is trying to force her to retire, and along the way Jenna hones her talents as a saleswoman and finds the strength to face her alcoholic father.


Nebraska Golden Sower Award (Nominee — 2001)
Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Middle Grade — 2001)
Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Young Adult — 2001)
LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Young Adult Literature — 1998)

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

201 p.; 4.4 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member MeriJenBen
I love this book so much. I think it might be my favorite teen book of all time. I think this would be a great choice for a multi-generational book group.
LibraryThing member 4sarad
Joan Bauer has a way of making everything seem interesting, even selling shoes for a living. Jenna is a very likable character who has real problems and great people around her who help her figure things out for herself. There were SO many great characters in this book. The sad shocker wasn't quite
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as sad to me as the one in Hope Was Here, but it was still hard. Overall it was a great casual read or a great read to help someone deal with alcoholism in the family.
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LibraryThing member MrsHillReads
Not many heroines are shoe clerks! This is a nice multi-generational story that makes you feel good after you have read it!
LibraryThing member hellobooks45
My favorite Joan Bauer book. The reviews always say grades 6+, but I saw her talk at the Printer's Row Book Fair a few years ago and the audience was filled with tweens. It's never to early to instill girls with self-esteem and self-worth.
LibraryThing member 321Gemstar
Jenna loves selling shoes. She must have inherited her saleswoman-ship from her now drunken and absent father who was always selling something. She's good at what she does - she doesn't sell the most profitable or what the person wants but sells shoes of good quality that will be a good purchase
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for the customer. Luckily, the store that she works at, Gladstone's Shoe Store of Chicago, supports these ideal. Unluckily, the current owner, Mrs. Madeline Gladstone, is over 70 years old, and her son is forcing her to retire. He wants to make the chain into a cheap shoe warehouse and completely trash Gladstone's reputation and quality.

This is where the road trip comes in. Madeline Gladstone hires Jenna to be her chauffer and drive her around the country visiting different outlets of her store. Jenna isn't thrilled to spend her summer with her elderly boss or away from her family, but wants the money and to get away from her drunk father.

The characters are all really wonderful. They all have strengths, talents, and weaknesses that get revealed as the plot advances. All of the characters get better - for example, Jenna's sister Faith is sort of shallow and little kid-ish when we first meet her, but she grows up a lot and becomes bearable to be around. Mrs. Gladstone reveals weaknesses despite her stubbornness. Jenna learns a lot about herself, the world, selling shoes, and her father on her road trip. The only central character who I hated through the entire book is Mrs. Gladstone's son, Elden - he's just a selfish, scheming jerk.

I really like Jenna. She's not beautiful, perfect, or super talented, but she's loveable. She cares about people and shoes, and is capable - she manages to take her drunken father away from her workplace all by herself, despite her own mental distress at seeing him again. She regularly visits her grandmother who has Alzheimer’s disease and helps her remember by telling her about memories and taking her to do her favorite things. She protects her little sister from her drunken father, and is able to deal despite her mother's confusing working hours. Jenna's strong, intelligent, and fun to read about.

I think Joan Bauer must be really good at showing people what's desirable about certain professions because she described Jenna's commitment to selling shoes that are good for the buyer - sturdy, good quality, good for their feet, etc. I think it's really cool.

While road trips are normally about the places you go, Jenna and Mrs. Gladstone's is about the people you meet, the things you learn, and the actions you take.
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LibraryThing member ERMSMediaCenter
Sixteen-year-old Jenna gets a job driving the elderly owner of a chain of successful shoe stores from Chicago to Texas to confront the son who is trying to force her to retire, and along the way Jenna hones her talents as a saleswoman and finds the strength to face her alcoholic father.
LibraryThing member ewyatt
Jenna's life may not be going so hot in other areas, but she excels in her job as a shoe salesperson at Gladstone shoes. When she is given a promotion by the grouchy old lady who owns the company to serve as her driver and go on a trek to Texas, Jenna is in to learn a lot more about life than she
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bargained for. Her dad has just reappeared in Chicago, still a drunk and making her life miserable. Jenna's journey, in which she, Mrs. Gladstone, and others in an interesting cast of characters, is focused on trying to save the company.
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LibraryThing member ladylonghorn
This book was about 17 Jenna Boller, who is a shoesalesman for Gladstone's Shoes in Chicago. One day the owner of the store comes in and asks Jenna to drive her from Chicago to Texas for a stockholder's meeting where she will resign from the company for the wrong reasons. Jenna comes from a broken
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home by divorce and has to deal with her father's alcohol problems and her grandmother's Alzheimer's Disease. Jenna learns a great deal on the road about, family, life and business.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
Joan Bauer has won multiple awards for her young adult fiction. The heroine in this book, Jenna Boller, is a down-to-earth, self-consciously tall 16-year-old teenager who is more mature than her years. She has had to help raise her younger sister since her now-single mother works the night shift as
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a nurse to support the three of them. Her father is an alcoholic. Her grandmother, who was always her best friend when Jenna was growing up, has developed Alzheimer’s.

Jenna has a job selling shoes at Gladstone’s, a purveyor of quality shoes that is about to be sold to a big company more interested in sales than soles, as Jenna would say. Her aged and wealthy boss, Mrs. Madeline Gladstone, hires Jenna to drive her from Chicago down to Dallas to attend the stockholders meeting at which Mrs. Gladstone will try to stop the takeover, even though it is spearheaded by her own son, Elden. The trip takes six weeks, since Mrs. Gladstone wants to stop and inspect stores along the way. Jenna helps out by pretending to be a customer so she can make “stealth” evaluations for Mrs. Gladstone.

When they reach Dallas, Jenna gets to meet the top shoe salesman in the country, Harry Bender. Bender, who is a recovered alcoholic, takes her under his wing and teaches her about caring, not just for others, but also for herself. By the time Jenna has arrived home, she has changed quite a bit, but so has her family: “We’d all been on journeys this summer.”

Discussion: Bauer, herself the daughter of an alcoholic, provides an excellent portrait of the family dynamics that ensue from living with an alcoholic. She shows us the pain, the coping mechanisms, the hopes and the dashed hopes, and yet manages not to paint too maudlin a picture. Moreover, she also gives a sympathetic and loving description of what happens with Alzheimer’s disease. Jenna, like the character Hope in Bauer’s later book Hope Was Here, is constantly trying to find the bright side, and yet not cloyingly so. Her problems don’t go away, but the way she deals with them undergoes a big change as she matures and gains confidence.

Evaluation: This is a warm book that will inspire other young teens dealing with problems to be survivors. Jenna’s motto is to focus, both on what really matters in life, and on solutions to problems rather than on dwelling on the negatives. Bauer is an optimist, but her optimism is grounded in real hardships. Her message, that these trials can make you stronger instead of knocking you down, is a great one for teens.
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LibraryThing member Sandra305
I think Joan Bauer is becoming my favorite YA author! I love every book of hers that I have read so far, and this one is no exception. The characters are bigger than life and the storyline is wonderful. The subplots (Jenna's grandmother with Alzheimers, her alcoholic father, etc.) are woven into
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the main story very skillfully and add additional depth. Jenna's personal and social maturation are something to behold as she deals with her alcoholic father, relates both compassionately and honestly to the imperialistic Mrs. Gladstone, discovers her own personal strengths and integrity, etc. Highly Recommended!
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LibraryThing member caandrews
It is heart touching and a great story.
LibraryThing member renee.nevils
Plot Summary: Rules of the Road is a fiction story written by Joan Bauer. Jenna Buller is an average 16 year old girl who works at a local shoe store. Ms. Gladstone, president of the shoe company, asks Jenna to be her personal driver for the summer. Jenna goes reluctantly, with fear of driving a
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Cadillac and of leaving her alcoholic father behind. On the road, Jenna learns how to deal with many adult situations and shows maturity and responsibility. As the reader, you will sit back and admire her courage as she drives Ms. Gladstone across the state lines as they fight to keep control of the shoe company.

Critique: Rules of the Road was a great book. I honestly enjoyed reading this well-written story. I felt I could truly relate to Jenna and all the responsibilities put on young people. My 14 year old daughter is now reading it. I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

Curriculum Uses: It is a good book that could be used for enjoyment or leisure reading. It could be recommended to children going through a rough time with a variety of problems.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
Dealing with the very tough topic of alcoholism and the way in which it impacts those in contact with the alcoholic, Bauer appears to know this topic well.

As the oldest child of an alcoholic father, Jenna has learned the games involved, the lies, the deceit and the shame. She has learned all too
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well how to feel responsible and guilty. When her near do well father breezes into town drunk once again, she decides to take advantage of a unique opportunity.

Working as a shoe sales person in Gladstone Shoes, when the owner and elderly Mrs. Gladstone requests that Jeanna drive her throughout the country to some of her shoe stores, Jenna gladly accepts the challenge of life on the road behind the wheel of a large Cadillac.

Meeting a host of likeable characters who together work to defeat Mrs. Gladstone's slimy son who attempts to take over the company.

When Jenna returns home, she is richer for the journey and is able to confront her father. Sadly, as is the case with some with addictions, daddy loves the bottle more than his family.

Jenna learns to put a stop sign in front of the man who has harmed her and her father.
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LibraryThing member bridgetrwilson
Another great book by Bauer! Jenna, like all her other protagonists, has such an engaging voice that you can't put the book down. I read this book & its companion Best Foot Forward in about 3 hours.
LibraryThing member cwbooks
wonderful main character- story about a 16 year old girl who overcomes difficulties in life
LibraryThing member jmorrison
This book was fabulous. I liked the witty and vivid charecters and enjoyed the thought put into the story line.
LibraryThing member craigwsmithtoo
You would think that a book about a high school girl who drives an old woman to Texas would be a real snore, but somehow, Joan Bauer keeps it interesting. The girl's father is a drunk. He shows up at the shoe store where she works and makes a scene. An old woman, who owns a chain of quality shoe
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stores offers the girl a chance to drive her to Texas, stopping along the way to visit her stores. It turns out that the story has a lot more to do with life and problems than it does with shoes.
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LibraryThing member JoeYee
It was okay, can't say I like it. Bought it for high school summer reading, finally got to read it after all those years.




(187 ratings; 4.1)
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