Sunday 2 October 2016

Book ~ "The Assistants" (2016) Camille Perri

From Goodreads ~ 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.

Tina is the 30-year-old assistant to Robert, owner of a large media conglomerate, and is living pay cheque to pay cheque, barely able to afford anything.  One day she makes flight arrangements for Robert and puts the cost on her credit card, which she expenses and gets compensated for.  The airline, though, comps his flight and sends Tina a cheque for the amount.  It's about $20,000 which is just enough to pay off her student loan.  After much deliberation, she decides to keep the money (thus, stealing) and pays off her loan.  But what she has done is quickly discovered and she is blackmailed into scamming more money from the company.

This is the debut novel by this author.  For the most part, I like the writing style.  At times it was amusing and sarcastic.  It's written in first person perspective from Tina's point of view.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

I wasn't crazy about the story line.  Tina's been Robert's assistant for six years and is good at taking care of of him.  But she has no ambition and would rather whine about her lack of funds rather than do anything about it.  The other assistants in the company were the same.  They begrudge their bosses because they have so much money than they do.  I didn't feel any sympathy for them ... they chose to go to college/university and rack up student loans, live in New York City, not have part-time jobs on the side, look for better jobs, etc.  When Tina was caught on her scam, rather than going to Robert and pleading ignorance/stupidity, she lets herself get blackmailed, which keeps snowballing and getting worse.

I didn't really like any of the characters.  I found Tina boring and pathetic at times, though she did find herself in the end and was stronger and more confident.  Emily, her new best friend, who is also an assistant, is beautiful and has a lot of things, which she acknowledges were gifts from men.  My initial thought was that she was prostituting on the side.

Apparently this book 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?"  Really?  How about not expecting promotions to drop on your lap and try working for them?!

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