The Assistants by Camille Perri is porn for the millennial. It’s a cathartic romp into a debt-free world that every 20-30-something fantasizes about. We follow Tina, a 30-something assistant to one of the most power men in media, and she is a woman caught between a rock and a hard place–still lingering student debt and a job with no chance of upward advancement. She is stuck in a sink hole created by the choices she made all in the name of a college education. yassss the higher the debt the higher the education!! yassss
Tina is given an opportunity to break the law. The lines are not blurry, but sometimes we try to smudge the lines ourselves because we are desperate enough. Her student loans are a physical and mental barrier keeping her from “real” life, and she would be happy if the debt would just disappear. She is looking for something challenging and rewarding to sweep her off her feet, and it comes in the form of a mistake that she uses to her advantage. As the saying goes, the rest is history. Tina’s empty life snowballs into one full of high jinx, friendship, romance, and corporate espionage. My biggest problem with Tina is that she is such a passive character for about 95% of the book. She makes this one decision, but then lets people push and drag her for the majority of the story. I get it. It’s called a story arc, but literally every character and plot point just falls into her lap. It’s boring and even lazy at times. She is such a funny observationist, though, so I didn’t become too frustrated with her.
The book feels like a movie. It feels so much like an Anne Hathaway, Katherine Heigel (about 8 years ago), or Kate Hudson (about 10 years ago) movie. It’s Bridesmaids without the bride. It’s a Nancy Myer’s script, if it was told from the point of view of the assistant to one of Nancy Myer’s characters (ie Harry Sanborn’s assistant is Something’s Gotta Give. Can you imagine the things that poor assistant saw?!) Look, I would be very, very, very surprised if this book isn’t turned into a movie in the next 5 years. I bet some studio exec has already bought the rights to it. It’s funny, topical, slightly political but not scary political, and would attract the 18-40 year old female demographic. Hell, one character (I think her name was Marge?) is literally written for Melissa McCarthy. I would bet my student debt that Perri wrote that character with Melissa McCarthy in mind.
The strength of the story is in the first 100 pages. Perri sets up a deliciously genius premise that is able to carry you through the second half, which does begin to fall apart as it becomes less and less realistic. So many logistics of the plot are brushed aside by the computer hacker character (every comedy has a computer hacker).
At its core, this is a story about the pressure and dissatisfaction that a lot of people feel, especially out of college. Throw a Make America Great Again hat at me and call it “entitlement”, but I feel like we all deserve a life.