The Assistants by Camille Perri
Tina Fontana is a 30-year-old assistant to Robert Barlow, a wealthy media mogul and CEO of the Titan Corporation. Robert is all-knowing and all-powerful, but Tina's realm of power basically extends to scheduling appointments and making Robert's drinks. She's also toiling in New York City: living in a tiny apartment with a crumbling ceiling and struggling with the burden of student loan debt. Meanwhile, her boss drops money like it's nothing: often the equivalent of her debt in a single setting. One day, a clerical "error" allows Tina to be double-reimbursed on an expense claim. The amount is equivalent to her student loan debt and she sees a chance to free herself from a lifetime of penny-pinching. Is it really stealing, if the company won't even notice, she wonders?
This book; I don't know. I wanted to like it more than I did. I get the premise; there is a whole new generation out there struggling under the weight of student loan debt, a generation where education didn't deliver on the promise of a better future. However, the premise of solving this problem by stealing--no matter how big the corporation, corrupt the bosses, or how much money the CEOs drop--was problematic to me. Tina becomes embroiled with a cast of characters and while they all grow on you, none are exactly sympathetic. There is only so much sympathy one can have for a group of uppity girls in New York City. Perhaps, you think, you could be focusing your energy on saving more worthy, less entitled people? Many of the scenes seem contrived and friendships confusing.
Still, the novel picks up a bit at the end, hence the 3-star rating. I actually have a note in my version that says "stupid book grows on you," because it really does. I don't want to give any spoilers, so I won't say why, but I did enjoy the last 80 pages or so a lot, and found myself rooting for the characters more, even if I still didn't like all of them, or understand (or endorse) all their motivations and actions. I also could see this as an excellent movie, as the less-developed pieces would be far less noticeable in a film.
Overall, this is a fairly fun read, but not sure it's the deep treatise on spending and class it tries to be (e.g., only women have student loan debt?). Parts of it made me laugh, but some also made me cringe. Up to you if it's worth that trade-off.
I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss(thank you!); it is available everywhere on 5/3/16.
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