Meet Jenna Boller, star employee at Gladstone's Shoe Store in Chicago. Standing a gawky 5'11'' at 16 years old, Jenna is the kind of girl most likely to stand out in the crowd for all the wrong reasons. But that doesn't stop Madeline Gladstone, the president of Gladstone's Shoes 176 outlets in 37 states, from hiring Jenna to drive her cross country in a last ditch effort to stop Elden Gladstone from taking over his mother's company and turning a quality business into a shop-and-schlock empire. Now Jenna Boller shoe salesperson is about to become a shoe-store spy as she joins her crusty old employer for an eye-opening adventure that will teach them both the rules of the road...and the rules of life. Joan Bauer lives in Darien, CT.
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.