This month’s book club was picked by Stephanie. She picked The Assistants by Camille Perri. It is Perri’s debut novel.
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: G.P Putnam's Sons
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Summary (Provided by 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 . . .
What I thought
I was a bit nervous about this book. I was worried I wasn’t going to enjoy the main character and therefore wouldn’t enjoy the book. I was also worried that the book was going o be slow going and take a while to get things moving. I was pleasantly surprised to see that none of this was true.
The Assistants follows Tine, who is the assistant for the media man and one of the richest men in the world. As an assistant, she barely makes enough to get by in New York and is also working towards paying off student loan debt. When she accidentally receives a check for $20,000 she figures, what’s the harm in keeping it and using it to pay off the rest of her debt? When she is found out by another assistant, they use their invisibility and knowledge to steal money from men who have so much they wouldn’t even notice it was gone.
The Assistants addresses the unfairness that is the 1%. The men who work for Titan Corp make insane amounts of money, while their assistants make minimal and drown in student debt. As women in a male media world they feel kept down. Tina gets the chance to take the amount that Robert, her boss and head of Titan Corp, would drop on two sorry necklaces for his wife and justifies that she needs the money more than he does. She struggles with the moral dilemma of taking the money or giving it back but ultimately keeps it.
Tina then finds out that she is not alone in her struggle. Women everywhere are drowning in debt and being underpaid and underappreciated. As a young career woman with a crazy amount of student loan debt, I understand the struggle. I related to Tina in that if I received a check for the amount that I had left owed on my loans from a man who spends that in a day without thinking about it, I would be extremely tempted to keep it. The amount that these men think of as nothing is life changing to so many people. While I wouldn’t have actually kept the money, Tina did and that created a great moral dilemma throughout the story.
Perri kept the pace of the story moving very quickly which I enjoyed. I felt myself worried and anxious on behalf of Tina and the other assistants, so it was nice not to have to have that dragged out. Once I started the story, it was very easy to keep reading. I didn’t want to put it down as I wanted to find out what happened to Tina and the other assistants.
This story would make a wonderful romantic comedy. It has the feel of Devil Wears Prada or The Shopaholic with the modern struggle of student loan debt that so many women can relate to. I really enjoyed this book and felt like it would make a great beach read.
What Book Club Thought
This was such a great book club choice! It had so many great discussion points. We all enjoyed the book but at the same time had minor issues with it that made for great discussions. The general consensus was that the story was fun and moved quickly but that there were some plot and character issues. One of the book club members works in a large company and actually has experience with filing expense reports, so her knowledge of that was really interesting. I have never had to file expense reports (as I work in the schools) so I had no knowledge of how correct or probable that part of the story was. After some discussion, it seems as though Perri did not compete a lot of research on that portion of the story.
One good question that came up for discussion was “At any point did you feel ok with what Tina did?” And then we had a follow up of “Would you have ever done what she did?”
Next Book Club: August 12th 2016
Book Club Pick: Little Women By: Louisa May Alcott
It’s time for our yearly classic! August is typically the month that we pick to read our one classic and this year we collectively picked Little Women.