I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, and of course there are SO many articles about this topic I hesitate to throw in my own two cents. But after reading three love-triangle-heavy series (“Unravel Me,” “Clockwork Princess,” “Vampire Academy”) in the last month, I couldn’t bite my tongue any more. Love triangles in YA can be fantastically written, well developed and seamlessly resolved, but more likely than not they’re excruciating and sometimes they even make you lose all sympathy for the protagonist, figuratively (or literally) curse the author, want to throw the book across the room, or yell into a pillow in frustration.
For all of those reasons, I am infinitely more interested in books with a singular love story like “Eleanor and Park,” “Divergent,” “Graceling,” “The Scorpio Races,” Melina Marchetta’s and Gayle Forman’s books, etc. etc. etc. than in books with an overarching love triangle. I don’t mind when there’s an occasional other person who flirts or is interested in half of the central romance or even existing or soon-to-be ex girlfriends or boyfriends like in Stephanie Perkins’ books, but the drawn-out “Who will she end up with?” stories kill me a little bit.
There are definitely exceptions. I think Cassandra Clare handles love triangles incredibly well (and I realize Diana and I may be two of the few people who actually loved the way she handled the Will-Tessa-Jem storyline in “Clockwork Princess”). I actually loved the brothers in Jenny Han‘s “The Summer I Turned Pretty” trilogy and had a soft spot for both Peeta and Gale in Suzanne Collins‘ dystopian epic “The Hunger Games.” But there are a few love triangle tropes I seriously have trouble with, so bear with me as I share them.
1. The Evil Guy=Hot, the Nice Guy=Boring: It bugs me when we’re supposed to forgive and forget that one of the characters in a love triangle has done seriously evil things just because he’s hot and is a good kisser. And I don’t even mean in the distant past; I mean TO the protagonist and those she loves. Sorry, but I’m not going to forget a series of maniacal and bloodthirsty acts until you do something to truly redeem yourself. Something MORE than give the protagonist a steamy makeout session.
2. Killing Off One Guy: So you know this scenario, right? Both guys have their pros and cons, and you sort of know who she will end up with, but you still care about the other guy. You have no idea how the author is going to resolve the situation, and then POOF! one guy dies. Um, what? And yeah, maybe there are other reasons that the guy died that are separate from the love triangle, but to me, that’s a cheap, cheap way to end a love triangle. I’d rather read an uncomfortable confrontation between the protagonist and the “other” guy than have one guy die.
3. The Guys HATE Each Other: I know this is strange, but I actually prefer when the two guys have a begrudging respect for each other, like Peeta and Gale did. I’m not saying they have to be blood brothers (although that’s what makes “The Infernal Devices” so unique) or even biological brothers (although that’s what made it so possible for Jeremiah and Conrad to keep loving each other after Belly “chose”), but it’s a lot better (in my opinion) when there’s jealous and hurt (obviously!) but not “I want to kill the other guy” repulsion. It’s much more interesting (and substantive) when the guys (I keep saying guys, because there are so few love triangles with two girls and one guy!) can see why the girl would have feelings for the other guy.
4. Back to Back Close Encounters: This is more about the protagonist than the guys. It bothers me when the girl kisses one guy and then within hours kisses the other guy. I’m all for exploring the feelings that pull you toward one of the characters over the other, but is it really necessary to make out with both guys (or even sleep with one and then kiss the other) in such a short timespan? Not cool, girls.
So what love triangles have you loved or hated? Which authors do it right, and which ones make you want to fling the book across the room?