Friday, October 18, 2013

The Smartest Girl in the Room by Deborah Nam-Krane: Review and Excerpt


Title:  The Smartest Girl in the Room

Series: The New Pioneers, Book One

Author:  Deborah Nam-Krane

Published:  March 29th, 2013

Word Count:  85,000

Genre: Romance, Chick Lit

Content Warning:  Brief references to adult situations and minor adult language

Recommended Age:  14+

Synopsis:  Nineteen year old Emily wants her college diploma fast, and she's going to get it. But when the perfect night with perfect Mitch leads her to a broken heart, Emily is blind to her vulnerability. When the person she cares about the most is hurt as a result, Emily's ambition gives way to more than a little ruthlessness. She's going to use her smarts to take care of herself and protect the people she loves, and everyone else had better stay out of her way. But shouldn't the smartest girl everyone knows realize that the ones she'd cross the line for would do the same for her?



"Is there some reason you want to keep me jacked up tonight?"
He leaned forward and put his face in his hands. "I like talking to you, and I want to do it as much as I can."
She held his eyes for a moment. "Alright, but you can’t expect anything I say in another hour to make any sense."
An hour and a half into their conversation, she indeed lost her train of thought and stared at him. He made a goofy face and she laughed. "You caught me."
"What were you thinking?"
"That I didn't enjoy myself this much the last time I stayed out this late."
"The last time? How late did you stay up?"
"At least until two."
"Then we're staying until three, for sure."
"Only if you get me another cannoli."
"Consider it done." He took a deep breath. "And who were you with?"
"Another girl." She paused. "Another heterosexual girl."
"Hmm. And how old were you?"
"I can’t picture you up past your bedtime at that age."
"At that age, I could have done anything I wanted to as long as I didn’t get picked up by the police."
"Ah, you were one of those lucky kids with permissive parents."
"Just one. My parents were divorced by then, and the psychotically strict one left me with the pathologically lax one."
"Sounds like a good deal."
"I thought so too, for the most part. Of course, I did question it when there wasn't any food in the house."
Mitch laughed, but Emily's expression didn't change. "I'm sorry," he said, sitting up. "Food was always readily available in my house."
"Well, I never starved."
"That must have been rough."
Emily shrugged. "Even when there was food, I tried to avoid being around my Mom that year. That was when she married my stepfather, and it didn't matter if I was there or not. I was a non-person."
"No, you weren't." He took her hand. "And you're not now."
She squeezed back, and he held on tighter. "I wish I could trust you, but you're sort of exhausted and tired and who knows what you're going to say?"
"Then you're going to have to let me say these things when I'm awake."
"Yeah? Sorry, but I'm not going to believe you about anything until you get me that second cannoli."
They talked until the café closed at three. The charm of an early fall evening was over. It was just cold now. Emily leaned against a building next to the restaurant, rubbing her hands together. "Okay, buddy. It’s three o’clock, there are no trains for a few hours and we’re out in the cold. What do you have in mind now?"
Mitch leaned over her and put his hands on her shoulders, then gently rested his chin on her forehead. She put her hands on his chest, just to keep warm, of course. "Better?" he asked.
"Oh, much." She tilted her head up to look at his smooth neck then hugged him. "But I don’t think anyone is going to let us stay here all night."
"Are you always like this?"
"Talkative? Yes, it keeps me amused."
"You seem like you’re worried someone’s going to send you to the principal’s office."
"And I suppose that’s served me well, because even during my darkest hours that never happened."
"Hmm. And I'm sure that made you a lot of friends."
"Some friends aren't worth having."
"So were you friend-free or just friend-less?"
"Mmm hmm," he started playing with her hair. "And were all of them girls?"
"Once I grew out of my gnome-state, I did manage to acquire a few friends of the Y-chromosome persuasion."
"Just a few?"
"And most of them were just friends."
"How many weren't?"
She looked up and he backed away. "Why do you ask?"
"Typical insecure guy stuff. I like to know who I'm being measured against."
"I think you're projecting. How am I doing in comparison to everyone else?"
"You are in a class all by yourself." He cleared his throat. "What about me?"
She took his hand. "Suffice to say, my taste in high school was so bad that, for the most part, Joe Welles would have been a better boyfriend."
"The most part," he repeated. "So who's my competition?"
She looked down for a moment. "He sort of doesn't count. Really, he was just a friend, and in some ways he wasn't even that."
"Oh, that's so much worse."
She shook her head. "It's not."
"Then why does he even get considered?"
"Because he was there for this one moment when everything seemed like it was as it should be and I wasn't alone." She smiled at the memory. "The starry night."
"There were a lot of stars?"
She giggled. "No, but I saw them anyway."
He came closer. "So how am I stacking up so far?"
"I haven't questioned my place in the world once tonight."
"So I'm the male version of Zainab. I guess that's a start."
"Zainab's great," she whispered, "but she doesn't make me see stars."
He moved in closer still. "Em-"
She put her fingers over his lips then smiled impishly. "No. This is sort of perfect right now."
"Anyone ever tell you you're a tease?"
"Anyone ever tell you you're impatient?"
He put his hands around her hips. "So how long do I have to wait?"
She suddenly remembered Drew. "Someone from my favorite class is having a party on Friday. Or he knows someone having a party-"
"Oh, it’s a he. Your favorite person from your favorite class?"
Emily started giggling. "No, I don’t think so. He’s kind of a dork."
"I write some legislation with Joe and suddenly you think I’m all about dorks?"
"Ah, but if you come to the party, you’ll also get to be with me. And, sorry, I cannot promise the same if you choose Joe."
"Then I would love to come to your friend’s party next Friday."
"It’s a date then."
"It’s another date."

4 Stars

This was a departure for me as I have not read much chick lit, but just a few pages into the story and I was hooked.  Emily is someone that I liked; exceptionally loyal to her friends, a little naïve, and obsessively driven to accomplish her cherished goal of getting her college degree.  Emily is bright and witty and sort of nerdy – she loves Star Trek and frequently peppers her conversations with bits of Star Trek trivia.  I am a fan, too, so I enjoyed reminiscing some of the factoids.  Emily meets Mitch and the pair really hit it off with one truly enchanted evening.  Unfortunately, for both, but primarily for Mitch, the timing is bad and their budding romance is terminated.  Mitch makes a poor decision then compounds the problem with additional stupid choices.  Emily is hurt but also faces some serious money problems.  Determined to move on with her life, she accepts help from Drew.  Drew initially fools her into thinking he is a good guy, but soon his true colors begin to emerge.   Thankfully, Emily’s best friend is a constant in her life with each of them supporting each other through thick and thin. 

This is a charmingly observant look at relationships, friendship, and romance.  The story is set in Boston.  As I read, I got a great feel for student life on the small Boston campus. I never much warmed up to Mitch again after that first royal debacle. Thankfully, at least, Emily  did not make it easy for Mitch to worm his way back into her affections.  Personally, I think he should have been kicked to the curb, but you decide, maybe you will feel more charitable.

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest review.

Reviewed by Laurie-J


Title: The Family You Choose

Series: The New Pioneers, Book Two

Author: Deborah Nam-Krane

Published: September 10th, 2013

Genre: Romance, Chick Lit

Synopsis: Miranda Harel has been in love with her guardian Alex Sheldon since she was five years old, and Michael Abbot has despised them both for just as long. When Miranda finds out why she wants both men out of her life for good and questions everything she believed about where and who she came from. Finding out the truth will break her heart. Without family or true love, will her friends be enough? The Family You Choose is Book Two in The New Pioneers Series



Deborah Nam-Krane was born in New York, raised in Cambridge and went to school in Boston. You’re forgiven for assuming she’s prejudiced toward anything city or urban. She’s been writing in one way or another since she was eight years old (and telling stories well before that). She first met some of the characters in this story when she was thirteen years old, but it took two decades- and a couple of other characters- to get the story just right. In 2012 she wrote the History section of her sister Suzanne Nam’s Moon Thailand (Moon Handbooks). A blogger since 2006, she can be found in a number of places. Please check  for more information and to join her mailing list.



There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:

  • $10 electronic Amazon Gift Card
Giveaway is International.


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