Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Assistants

Title:  The Assistants
Author:  Camille Perri
Publication Information:  G. P. Putnam's Sons. 2016. 288 pages.
ISBN:  0399172548 / 978-0399172540

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "You've probably heard of my former boss."

Favorite Quote:  "Please believe me when I tell you, I never intended to do anything so incredibly illegal."

9 to 5. Working Girl. The First Wives Club. Robin Hood. The Devil Wears Prada. A lot of stories come to mind when reading this book. The premise of this book is a simple one. One seemingly small decision snowballs into something much bigger and becomes a movement to bring some balance between the haves and the have-nots. The resulting escapades are just fun reading.

Tina Fontana is a Manhattan assistant to the rich and powerful businessman Robert Barlow. The financial gap between CEO and assistant is huge and seemingly insurmountable. Tina's student debt totals an amount Robert would casually spend on one outing. An administrative error provides Tina an opportunity to pay off her debt. She justifies it. No one will know. It's a drop in the bucket for Robert. It won't matter to him.

So it begins. The predictable problem is that of course someone knows. However, they don't hold it against Tina; they don't want to report her; they want in on the scheme. They see the potential in helping more "administrative errors" like this one to occur. The proposed aim - to pay of student loans of those who can't afford to - is honorable, but the means equates to theft. Things get complicated. Very complicated.

The premise of this book is not new. Neither is the story line. In fact, it proceeds in a fairly predictable manner. However, the book is still a fun read.

One thing that stands out about this book is that for the most part, the main character Tina is passive. She makes one decision at the beginning. Beyond that, she is pulled along by circumstances and by other people - forced, coerced, or cajoled. Eventually, she has her moment of strength towards the end of the book, but mostly, she is batted along with the ups and downs of the story. Her friend Emily seems to take a much more active role in making things happen, but this is Tina's story. As such, I don't find myself cheering on Tina, but I do still enjoy reading about the situations she finds herself in.

Along with the professional escapades of the assistants, the book does have a simple love story with Tina at its center. It's sweet, uncomplicated, and adds just another element to this light-hearted story. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl work together. Boy and girl discover they like each other. With the complications of Tina's life, complications in the relationship ensue. Do boy and girl survive Tina's decision? What do you think?

The Assistants is a story of millennials - out of college, saddled with student debt, struggling with finding the right opportunities, and leading technology based lives. The goal of paying off student debt and helping empower the assistants in doing so brings in somewhat loftier civic goals. Contrasting this picture is the image of the rich with vacation homes, lavish entertainment, and thousands of dollars casually spent on trivial things. Both sets of characterizations remain at the surface and run true to the stereotypes. For this light-hearted book, that is enough for the story to proceed and be a fun beach read for the coming season.

My final thought ... I see a movie in the making.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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