CBR12 Bingo: Money!
If this didn’t fit so perfectly into a Bingo square, I probably wouldn’t bother to review it. I probably wouldn’t have bothered to finish reading it.
Tina Fontana is the personal assistant to Robert Barlow, an all-powerful media executive who basically the controls the news. He’s a billionaire, she makes $40,000 a year (Do men like Jeff Bezos and Rupert Murdoch really pay their assistants so poorly? Eat the rich). A mistake on an expense report leaves her with an extra check for $20,000, and very little chance that anyone will notice if she pockets it. She does, using it to pay off her student loans. She’s caught by a similarly badly-paid assistant in Finance, Emily, who blackmails her into falsifying expense reports to pay off Emily’s student loans. From there, things start to get out of hand.
This book is Not Good. It’s a good premise, and even though this is not my genre I was interested enough to pick it up. But the characters are so, so, bland. A couple pages from the end, a “Lily” is mentioned, and I thought, “who?” The author’s idea of characterization for Lily is that she wears a cardigan with cats on it and has a verbal tic of saying, “Ooh, aah,” at the beginning of every sentence. WHO IS LILY? I know nothing else about her. Same for all the characters. I have no picture in my head at all of Tina, the protagonist and narrator. She says quite a few times that she’s “tough,” having grown up with immigrant Italian parents in a bad part of the Bronx (or maybe Brooklyn. . . I honestly don’t know), but she doesn’t act tough at all. She allows Emily to verbally abuse her and to squat in her apartment without paying her any rent. On multiple occasions when there’s a potential conflict with her boyfriend, she just starts making out with him to avoid having to talk about anything.
Actually, here’s a list of what passes for characterization for the main characters:
Tina: Italian, “tough,” 30 years old, poor
Emily: blonde, snotty, poor
Robert: old, white, rich, mean to everyone except Tina and his wife
Kevin (the love interest): cute, a lawyer, likes to eat lunch
There’s no substance to any of these characters. I certainly understood the women’s motivation–I’m approaching 40 and my boyfriend’s and my student loan balances would be enough for a down payment on an extremely nice house–there’s nothing else to these characters. This is one of those nothing little books that in a few years when I’m scrolling through my Read list on Goodreads, I’ll think, “The Assistants? What is that? I read that?”