Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Old Are You?

I finished reading Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer today. It's about a Chicago teen, Jenna Boller, who gets offered a job as a driver for the elderly president of the company Jenna works for. Jenna's family situation is less than ideal, so she decides to do it. Jenna convinces her mom to let her accept the job and takes off cross-country with Mrs. Gladstone.

It was a nice summer read - easily finished in a day. Some of Jenna's observations along the way made me laugh out loud. Jenna's a city girl, and her reactions to (and bafflement by) an old Texan's figures of speech were perfect. Overall, I thought the book was entertaining, and I liked seeing Jenna come into her own.

I had trouble with Jenna's voice, though. She just didn't feel like a teenager to me. If we were told she was in her late thirties, I'd have an easier time believing it. I know there are responsible teenagers, teenagers with a good work ethic, teenagers who really care about doing the right thing - I see a lot of them every day at school - but I have a hard time imagining a teenager who would take six weeks of her summer vacation and spend it with old people and inspecting shoe stores. I really can't understand a teenager who would take six weeks away from friends and not call them even once (or really even give them much thought). I liked the rest of the book enough, though, that I could mentally adjust her age and keep reading.

As a reader, can you adjust the age of the character in your head and keep going? Or do you just put the book down and walk away if something's not believable? I like to finish the story if I can, and this one was enjoyable enough (and the problem small enough) that I could make a mental adjustment and move on. I'll definitely pick up the sequel, Best Foot Forward, and see what Jenna does next.