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THE ASSISTANTS: Breaking Rules to Take Charge

Camille Perri’s new book, The Assistants, is a quickly paced, breezy tale (engagingly read by Jorjeana Marie) about the exploits of an under-appreciated assistant and her rapid climb toward self-empowerment.

30 year-old Tina Fontana has been an assistant to Robert Barlow, CEO of mega-media company Titan Corporation, for six long years. She lives in a tiny, run-down apartment in Brooklyn. She doesn’t have any friends and is resolutely single. She has also learned to mask her Italian Bronx-accented upbringing. Her boss, Robert Barlow, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. He does not hide his Southern roots. He lives on a palatial plot of land in upstate New York where he goes shooting, and his wife tans herself by the pool every day. He can afford–and does buy–cuff links that are worth more than his assistant’s yearly salary. He runs a multi-billion dollar media company. So, when Tina fills out a travel and expense form for one $20,000 plane ticket for Robert, she isn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. When she receives her reimbursement check, though, for double what she has asked for, her whole world changes.

Tina struggles with what to do: return the extra money, or use the extra money (that is chump change, really, to Titan Corp) to pay off all of her student loan debt. She’s never broken any rules in her life, but she throws caution to the wind. A life without debt is too tantalizing to pass up. As she deals with the repercussions of her decision, Tina forms new relationships (both platonic and romantic), asserts herself more at work, and, ultimately, discovers that she can be more than she has ever allowed herself to be in the past.

The characters Camille Perri details in The Assistants run the gamut, and Jorjeana Marie voices them all with aplomb. There is Tina herself–a very accessible character that is easy to empathize with; Emily and Ginger are beautiful female assistants who seemingly have it all, but really don’t; Kevin, the sweet legal worker who is ashamed that his parents pay for his apartment; and Robert himself who we see through Tina’s eyes–a demanding yet kind boss. Perri’s meticulous creation of this world and these characters can make us feel as conflicted about Robert as Tina does (which is no small feat). Marie’s expert voice makes each character distinct and lively which keeps readers captivated. Readers will get completely drawn into the world of Tina Fontana and struggles and rejoice along with her.

The Assistants is a story that not only 20-and-30-somethings city-dwellers with student loan debt will identify with, but it will also appeal to anyone who has ever struggled post-school with coming into their own despite work and money. It explores women’s roles in a male-dominated workplace, the crushing weight of student loan debt, the power that money has (for bad as well as good), and the life-changing power of believing in yourself.

Listen to an excerpt of The Assistants read by Jorjeana Marie: The Assistants