Tina Fontana knows 3 things; 1. All important men have assistants. 2. Men still rule the world. And 3. There is enough money out there. Tina works for Robert Barlow, the CEO of the multinational media conglomerate Titan Corporation. She’s 30 and has a degree in English and is a whiz at slicing limes just right, making plane reservations, and otherwise being excellent at her job. She also still has $19,000 in student loan debt, which is about half of what she makes in a year. She lives alone in a rat-infested apartment with a plaster-and-rain bubble extending from the ceiling above her bed.
So when an accounting error reimburses her $19,000–almost exactly to the dollar the amount she owes–she is sorely tempted. She is used to pouring drinks from bottles that cost more than half her monthly rent, and picking up suits from dry cleaning that cost as much as her 4-year education. Titan wouldn’t even miss it. And so, she cashes the check, pays off her student loan, and luxuriates in the feeling of being debt free.
But Tina isn’t really the law-breaking kind. She grew up the daughter of hard-working Italian immigrants, plus she’s genuinely fond of her boss. Soon, however, she’s dealing with Emily Johnson, a gorgeous, mean blonde who seems like she’s a trust-fund kid (although it turns out she isn’t). Emily catches Tina’s ploy, but she’s not interested in turning her in. Instead, she wants in on the game, to deal with her own student loan. Before they know it, the two of them are helping lots of assistants–all bright, young, female, well-educated, and still not making it in today’s economy. Needless to say, things soon get out of hand.
The Assistants is funny, a fast read, and spot-on as it addresses some of the biggest social issues of our day–income inequality, student loan debt, and how to deal with it. Tina is an appealing heroine; lacking sex appeal and self-confidence, she nonetheless learns to stand up for herself and snag a hot lawyer boyfriend. She grows and changes as a character, while still remaining true to her somewhat dorky, shy persona. She and Emily manage to develop an unusual and lasting friendship as well. The one-liners are fantastic (I was scribbling some down to remember for later) and all-in-all, it’s a great summer read that will have you thinking, “Why am I so underpaid? Why can’t this be real?”