If you've never had a bad boss, you've probably never had a job. (Want an interesting dinner-party topic? Ask everyone for worst-boss stories). That being said, the bosses in Shanna Mahin's funny, sarcastic novel "Oh! You Pretty Things" (Dutton, 368 pp., $26.96), an inside look at celebrities, will make all your bad-boss stories seem . . . not so bad.
Jess Dunne grew up in Hollywood, but she's always been an outsider in a one-industry town. Her terror of a mother, Donna, tried to make Jess into a child star, but it didn't work.
While Donna threatens to come back into Jess' life (she probably needs money, Jess thinks), Jess gets an offer to quit her barista job and work for Tyler, an award-winning composer.
At first, things go well enough. Even though Tyler has a designer kitchen with a $7,000 coffee machine, he never uses it and sends Jess to Starbucks at odd hours to get bizarre orders with cups of "just foam." However, eventually Jess realizes that Tyler never leaves the house.
Jess has two girlfriends with higher status. Her roommate Megan is an actual working actress who acts like a normal human being; they share a tiny apartment on the fourth floor of an old Masonic lodge in "Baja Santa Monica."
Jess' other friend is Scout, a big, brassy girl. Scout's best friend, though, is "bona fide famous" actress Eva Carlton, who has hit the big time "on a high school show where every actor was gorgeous and pushing thirty."
When Eva needs a new personal assistant, Scout recommends Jess, and that's when Jess' life turns into a demanding, demeaning routine of catering to Eva's every weird whim.
"One of the benefits of being a famous actress is that you have a retinue of people to do your dirty work," Jess says.
"I'm really talking about the people who protect the talent from having to soil their psyches with awkward conversations. Do I sound bitter? Envious is closer to the truth. . . .Who wouldn't want [me] to refill your tank when you run out of gas? . . . Eva always implies it's my fault and at first I hated myself for not running to her house at two in the morning to make sure she had enough gas."
Or Eva needs new soles on her Louboutins, or edamame from a chic restaurant. But it's glamorous! Jess keeps telling herself, until she almost believes it.
Despite her sarcastic and pretty profane mouth, Jess is a mostly likable character; even at her most pathetic, we understand why she's so willing to take such abuse.
Wisely, though, the author doesn't try for any heavy analysis. Her breezy, chatty and often hilarious comments on all things celebrity will keep readers turning the pages – unless you have a personal assistant to do that for you, of course.