Today,I wanted to write about something that’s really common in YA fiction: love triangles. I mean, think of your favorite YA book or series. The Hunger Games? Most of ‘Catching Fire’ felt like Katniss trying to choose between Peeta and Gale to me. Twilight Saga? Edward vs. Jacob. Throne of Glass? Even while watching Celaena fight for her life, there seems to be a huge debate about Dorian vs. Chaol. And the Selection? Wasn’t the whole point of this series to see whether America ended up with Maxon or Aspen? That’s not to say any of these books are bad because they have love triangles. I got through the first book of The Hunger Games in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down (anyone else?). And neither am I saying that love triangles themselves are inherently bad. The only problem that I see is that they’ve become so common that sometimes it feels like the love triangle was shoved into the story just to be there and doesn’t add anything to strengthen the story. Hey, I love a well-written love triangle as much as the next person, but sometimes it feels like just another gimmick thrown into a book just to add market value.
So what is a love triangle?
Let’s start by defining what a love triangle is. To be honest, I don’t think the structure we see in most YA books should be called a love triangle. A true triangle has three corners and three sides, like we all learned in kindergarten. If there were three characters named A, B, and C, it would look something like this:
In a true love triangle, A would like B, B would like C, and C would like A. I’d actually love to read a novel with this romance structure (post on diversity in YA characters coming soon). But when we talk about the love triangles we see in YA, it really looks more like a love ‘V’:
In this structure, A likes B and C likes B, and B is forced to choose between A and C, thus creating the ‘who’s B going to end up with?’ suspense.
In YA (or at least the books I’ve read), B tends to usually be a girl. A and C are two boys who both like B. One is usually an old friend (Gale in ‘The Hunger Games’) or someone the girl has been with for a long time (Aspen in ‘The Selection). The other is someone new that the girl ends up meeting through the circumstances brought about through the plot.
Now that we know what a love ‘triangle’ is, here are some of my thoughts. To be honest, sometimes I feel like the romantic subplot created by the love triangle detracts from the rest of the plot. Again, going back to the example of ‘The Hunger Games,’ a lot of the focus seems to be on Team Peeta va. Team Gale, especially as the series progresses. Not that there’s anything wrong with supporting one of the sides, but what about Team Katniss-Not-Dying? Or Team Katniss-And-Rue-Both-Miraculously-Surviving? Maybe these are just the thoughts of someone who isn’t really into the romance genre, but I personally would’ve liked to see less of Katniss’s Peeta/Gale conflict and more about her relationship with her father, or Prim. And in the Selection, instead of reading through pages and pages of Maxon vs. Aspen, I would’ve liked to learn more about the caste system and the rebels.
I also feel like person “B,” or the person A and C both like, spends an excessive amount of time going between the two and leading both of them on. I mean, I know you’re having trouble deciding who you like while struggling to survive and all, but if I were the guy that you led on for three books and then rejected, I don’t think I’d be very happy.
Love triangles aren’t my most favorite thing in the world, but what are your thoughts on them? Are there any other examples of books with love triangles that you love? Leave your comments down below.
(If there are any topics you’d like the YA writer to cover, from writing tips to thoughts on YA, please let me know!)