The Assistants by Camille Perri
ISBN: 9780399172540 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780698180802 (ebook)
ASIN: B013Q7094K (Kindle version)
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
A wry and astute debut about a young Manhattanite whose embezzlement scam turns her into an unlikely advocate for the leagues of overeducated and underpaid assistants across the city. Tina Fontana is the hapless but brazen thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the all-powerful and commanding CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making his reservations for restaurants she’d never get into on her own and pouring his drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, she’s bored, broke, and just a bit over it all. When a technical error with Robert’s travel-and-expenses report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her student loan debt with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she struggles with the decision: She’s always played by the rules. But it’s such a relatively small amount of money for the Titan Corporation—and for her it would be a life-changer . . . The Assistants speaks directly to a new generation of women who feel stuck and unable to get ahead playing by the rules. It will appeal to all of those who have ever asked themselves, “How is it that after all these years, we are still assistants?”
Tina Fontana is a struggling thirty-year-old living in New York City. She works as the personal assistant to the boss of a multinational media conglomerate and makes barely enough to survive, much less pay off her college debt. Tina has no idea how much her life will change with one computer entry in The Assistants by Camille Perri.
Imagine working for a man that spends more on golf clubs (purchased to play one single round of golf) than you make in a month. Imagine this same man spends more on one monogrammed cotton handkerchief (that he considers to be just as disposable as a tissue) than you make in a week. Tina has worked for just such a man for six years and she’s still barely able to survive. After receiving a reimbursement check for an airline ticket that she paid for out-of-pocket and was then comped, she struggles with whether to return the check or keep it to pay off her student loans. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, she keeps the check and pays off her loans. She’s then blackmailed into helping to pay off the debts of one co-worker and then another. Tina struggles with the morality of what they are doing. As this “pay-it-forward” or “pay-it-down” (all the monies are used to pay down student loan debt) idea gains momentum, the idea garners publicity and becomes legitimized through crowdfunding. All the while, Tina and her coworkers are asking the hard-hitting questions of why were we lied to when told we needed a college education to get ahead and why are we are still struggling with basic survival on our wages, especially since we aren’t lazy but hardworking people?
I found The Assistants to be a fast-paced read that captured my attention from the first page to the very last. Ms. Perri has incorporated humor to take away a bit of the sting from the battle cry of millennials, “why isn’t this system working for us?” This is a generation that has gone to college, graduate school, law school, and/or medical school, racking up tens of thousands of debt. This is a generation that works 50-60 hours work weeks and is still struggling with the basics (rent, utilities, and groceries). Although The Assistants may be a somewhat lighthearted fictional look at this generation and their problems, it nonetheless highlights some serious issues facing these millennials. I enjoyed all of the characters, especially Tina, Emily, and Wendy. These women may have started out as “Robin Hood” type figures, but quickly come into their own with their “pay-it-down” assistance program (if only it were a reality). The Assistants provides a behind-the-scenes look at the world of assistants and their bosses’ unrealistic expectations. If you’re looking for a fun read that has its roots in reality, then look no further, The Assistants may just be the book for you. I’m looking forward to reading more from Ms. Perri in the future.
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