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Just like us, sort of

Zoey Brooks is a confident, take-charge girl, not afraid to get in your face (although in a nice way) and quick on her feet. That's a good thing since she is new to her school, and her school is new to girls.

Zoey 101, a new series on Nickelodeon's TEENick, stars Jamie Lynn Spears, younger sister of Britney, as the title character. It tells the ongoing story of Zoey and her gal and guy pals at Pacific Coast Academy, a boarding school in its first year of coed attendance.

The show appealed to me because it portrays a lot of what we all go through _ friends, peer pressure, sports, school and life issues, boys and girls, boys vs. girls, first love.

The first episode introduces the characters that I'm sure we'll come to consider friends _ Dustin, Zoey's little brother, who gets into trouble but does not mean to; born-to-be-her-buddy Chase (who has a secret crush on Zoey); his roommate Michael; and her boarding school roomies, boy-crazy Nicole and Dana, the stubborn jock. It's a big posse, but everyone needs friends, especially away from home.

In the first episode, Zoey and her girlfriends go up against the guys. Logan (the big man on campus _ at least in his own world) seems to think that girls should not be on the basketball team. Hey, it's a coed school now, and Zoey makes it known to the guys that she and her girls can do everything as well or better than they can. So, Zoey puts a team together, a bet is made, and the game is just a few days away.

I liked the show because it presents kids as they are. Zoey 101 does not talk down to you, as many of the shows geared toward teens and tweens have done in the past. Sure, we know that Zoey is likely to have a happy ending, but we see how others face what we face every day. We often think that no one is going through the same problems, but we should know differently.

Nickelodeon has done a good job presenting shows our parents don't mind us watching, shows my parents watch with me: Drake & Josh, Unfabulous, Romeo. Zoey and her friends are normal (well, as a bunch they sure are cuter and certainly "cooler" than many of us think we are) teens, and the show felt believable.

So, will Zoey make the basketball team? Will the girls be able to put up or have to shut up against the guys? Will she be the laughingstock of the school? Who will be left standing? There's only one way to find out _ watch the debut episode of Zoey 101.

Zoey is your normal teenager with a lot of the same questions and hopes that we all have _ yes, even you. You know what that means: boys, girls, friends, peer pressure, sports, puppy love, school and life challenges. All in a half hour? That's a major challenge that Zoey 101 accomplishes.

Sarah Collins, 12, is in sixth grade at Palm Harbor Middle.