It’s not always easy to nail a teen show. Sometimes they’re too cheesy, or too boring. Too full of drama, or too many over-the-top issues. For every Dawson’s Creek, there’s a 90210 remake — don’t even get me started — just waiting in the wings. After years of entrusting all my teen needs to The WB, Read: The CW, lately I’ve been turning to cable networks for my high school fix. Specifically, MTV and ABC Family.
MTV teen shows are funny, subversive and totally willing to go there. Just look at Awkward, coming back for its fifth and final season on August 31. From the first season, where unpopular Jenna starts a secret relationship with the school hottie and deals with rumors that she tried to kill herself after she fell and broke her arm, this show has brought a fresh new spin to teen dramas. The characters talk frankly about sex, but it never delves into after-school-special territory; the writing is too funny and sharp for that kind of melodrama.
Following in Awkward’s wake is Faking It, another MTV hit, this time about a high school where being different is considered cool. Best friends Amy and Karma are sick of feeling overlooked, so they end up pretending to be lesbians to stand out. Only, their plan backfires when they start having real feelings for each other. Season 2 of this quick, funny show also airs August 31.
For a little less quirk and a little more drama, Switched at Birth on ABC Family isn’t afraid to push the envelope. It follows Bay and Daphne who were – you guessed it – accidently switched at birth. Bay is living with her privileged parents when she realizes she doesn’t have the same blood type. They eventually find Daphne, who’s deaf and struggling financially with her single mother. The two families try to navigate the murky waters of their new relationships, while the lives of the two girls become more and more intertwined. Season 5 premieres August 24.
Will Jenna and Matty finally get together on Awkward? Will Karma and Amy actually become a legit couple on Faking It? And who exactly is pregnant on Switched at Birth? We’ll have to wait until the end of the month to find out the answers to all these questions and so much more, I’m sure. But in the meantime, here are three books to tide all of us teen-show lovers over:
If You’re Jonesin’ on Faking It:
Never Always Sometimes, Adi Alsaid (Harlequin Teen, August 4)
For another tale of high school best friends-turned-lovers, check out Never Always Sometimes. Dave and Julia are so close they even have a Never List: rules for things they refuse to do in high school, desperate not to become clichés. But Dave would secretly like to break rule #10: never date your best friend. He’s been in love with the wild Julia for forever, so when she decides they should do everything on the Never List, he agrees. Both friends learn that maybe clichés aren’t so bad, and like Amy and Karma of Faking It, they start to realize there’s more to their friendship than either of them thought.
If You’re Jonesin’ on Switched at Birth:
Don’t Fail Me Now, Una LaMarche (Razorbill, September 1)
If you can’t get enough of blended-family stories, then try Don’t Fail Me Now. Michelle and Leah share a biological father who abandoned both of their families. When they hear he’s dying, the two decide to travel across the country to visit him, bringing along their separate siblings. But the two families are vastly different: Michelle is African American and struggling to support her two younger siblings with a mother in jail. Leah and her brother are white, middle class, with few real worries aside from school or friends. Can the two families survive days trapped together in one car? Fans of Switched at Birth will appreciate the blending of cultures, and how circumstance can affect your life forever.
If You’re Jonesin’ on Awkward:
Awkward, Marni Bates (Kensington Teen, January 2012)
Not only do the book and TV show share the same name, they also have pretty similar premises: the unknown girl lusts after the popular jock and makes a fool of herself publicly. But while Jenna of the show deals with a suicide rumor, Mackenzie in Bates’ Awkward becomes the subject of a viral video when she tries to give the popular football star unnecessary CPR. Mackenzie soon learns that being a Youtube star has its perks: including rock stars, free clothes and new found popularity. Will she handle it as ungracefully as Jenna? If you haven’t done it yet, pick up Awkward to find out.