Love Triangles: Love, Hate, or Tolerate?

HilaryBehind the Scenes, Inspiration, YA Lit

Lots of YA books throw the female protagonist in the path of two boys, and then indulge in a bit of romantic confusion as either a main plot or a sub-plot.

The Starbright series uses a love triangle, with Trea confused as to whether she should be with Lexan (the boy her society’s rules place her with) or Stian (the boy who represents what she’s always wanted). I’ve heard from both camps – those who relish Trea’s confusion and worry about who she’ll choose, and those who think she’s crazy to even consider one of the boys and wish she’d just pick already. The triangle gets resolved midway through the second book, although Trea struggles throughout the series to define herself, and sometimes loving someone else gets in the way of this. (Which is one reason I used this sub-plot in the first place.)

I’m not here to convince you to change your mind if you dislike love triangles in general, but I love a good one myself. Here are three types of triangles that I think are not only realistic, but enjoyable to read.

  1. THINGS CHANGE TRIANGLE: a legitimate reason for confusion. Sometimes the person we love goes through a major change, and we’re not sure how we fit in their lives anymore. So we try to move on. But the love never really dies, does it? I saw this sort of love triangle happening in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. Alina grew up with Mal. He was her everything. But then things changed for both of them, and they just didn’t get each other anymore. So along came the Darkling. And Nikolai. (Really, this is more than a triangle!) Alina was legitimately confused because the Mal she loved wasn’t there anymore. When he showed back up, she was even more confused because she’d tried to move on.
  2. REBELLION TRIANGLE: what’s expected versus what’s wanted. This is what I used in Justice Buried, and I also see it in series like The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Society or a certain group of people dictate or expect a union, but the protagonist doesn’t agree with their choices. At first. Something changes along the way and the protagonist starts to see the good points of the chosen one, and the bad points of the rebellion pick. At first, Katniss wants Gale, because who wouldn’t, right? Then the mechanics of the games put Katniss and Peeta into a weird sort of pseudo-relationship, and she has to decide what’s real and what she wants.
  3. FIRST IMPRESSIONS TRIANGLE: when you were wrong about a person. Plenty of us have fallen victim to this in real life, but been afraid or embarrassed to admit it. I saw this happen in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle. At first, Blue really dislikes Gansey just on the principle that he’s a rich Raven Boy. Oh, and he’s accidentally super rude. But Adam, she thinks she can understand and relate to, because he’s from a similar economic background. Once all the personality starts flowing, though, Blue realizes she might have misjudged both boys.

I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts! Do you like the confusion of a good love triangle, or do you prefer a simpler approach to your bookish romances? What are some of your favorite books that have a love triangle?


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