Young Adult fantasy books have been booming ever since the Harry Potter series became one of the biggest successes in publishing history.

 

So lucrative was the seven book series that other titles have followed as publishers try to ride the wave fueled by the Twilight, and more recently, Hunger Games series. 

 

It seems stories of ordinary teenagers aren't nearly as popular unless they're also wizards, vampires, or in the case of The Nine Lives of Chloe King, cat people. Based on a three-volume series by Liz Brazwell, the cable series joins The Vampire Diaries and two new network shows coming this fall, Grimm and Once Upon a Time, in pursuing the supernatural tales that have proved so successful in attracting teens, and other viewers.

 

This is the first such fantasy drama for ABC Family, if you don't count the science-fiction oriented Kyle XY from a few years back. The cable channel, owned by the Walt Disney Company, has certainly sought to re-invent itself; you might even call its history The Four Lives of The Family Channel

 

It was created by Christian Broadcasting Channel's Pat Robertson in the 80s as The CBN Family Channel, sold, in 1998 to Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp as the Family Channel and sold again to Disney in 2001 where it has focused its programming on attracting young girls.

 

I have to wonder what Robertson thinks of the non-traditional content of its original shows, like The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Pretty Little Liars. Advertising itself as offering "a new kind of family," that is, featuring mostly teens and a few parents, it's certainly an alternative to Disney's more wholesome image.

 

The Nine Lives of Chloe King may be in some ways less of a soap opera than those shows, but it still is mostly about a female teen protagonist and her adolescent friends.

 

The pilot episode recounts her discovery that she's a member of the Mai, a race with feline-powers. On her 16th birthday, Chloe, adopted as an infant, and living with her divorced mother in San Francisco, suddenly has the urge to live at extremes she's never known before.

 

She sneaks into a club and meets a cute boy (in these shows, all the boys are cute in some way) and after dancing with him, she impulsively kisses him. Soon she discovers that she has heightened sense of hearing, sight, greater agility—and claws. But that doesn't keep her from being chased by strangers up a tower and pushed off. She dies and then, comes back to life.

 

She soon meets members of the Mai, who tell her of her true nature and that she just lost one of her nine lives. The Mai tell her she has a special destiny to be the uniter of the Mai, their long-expected chosen one. But the secret order of assassins who are trying to kill her are age-old enemies of the Mai.

 

Chloe is told that one thing she can never do is romantically kiss a human male, which would result in the human's paralysis and possible death. To her horror Chloe learns that the boy she kissed at the club was found dead.

 

Now she must face the continuing threat of the Order's assassins, her attraction to a really hot Mai guy, Alek (Benjamin Stone), and an even hotter human guy, Brian (Grey Damon) who wants to be more than friends and whose father, unknown to Brian, is the man in charge of the Order's assassination attempts on Chloe.

 

Chloe is afraid to tell her mother about her secret identity and is trying to find her adoptive father who had originally brought her from the Ukraine to find out more about her origins.

 

Chloe would really rather just remain an ordinary teenage girl who shops, hangs out with her "normal" friends, the chatty Amy (Grace Phipps) and her goofy boyfriend Paul (Ki Hong Lee) and meet cute boys. But her Mai destiny won't be denied, and she knows that she can never have a normal relationship with a human male. 

 

As Chloe, Skyler Samuels manages to balance between perky girlhood and action hero, her pre-Raphelite beauty mingling with her modern teen femininity. By making romance so dangerous, the series borrows from the Twilight playbook by finding a motivation for abstinence, allowing sexual tension to have a somewhat old-fashioned feel to it. 

 

The target audience for the program might like this being a somewhat less exotic supernatural concept than stories of vampires in the Pacific northwest or Virginia, as in The Vampire Diaries, and Chloe and Amy being much more typical teen girls than Bella Swann's moody heroine, the series seems to hit ABC Family's target audience squarely. 

 

But whether this is going to be too much seesawing between perky girl talk and dark adventure remains to be seen.  It's still too early to know whether this mix of feline fraternities, cute guys and finding one's true identity will be catnip for young female viewers.  

*The Nine Lives of Chloe King airs Tuesdays, ABC Family

**This article first published 7/8/2011