Friday, 11 October 2013

Let's talk about love triangles...

Scenario #1: A woman loves her husband very much but they have become comfortable. She meets a man on a work trip and becomes embroiled in an affair.

Scenario #2: A girl has been with her boyfriend for 3 years and they are the best of friends. New boy starts at school and she fancies the pants off him.

Which of these scenarios is a love triangle? Both, or only the YA one? Books for adult readers never really have the love triangle insult thrown at them, and yes, it has become an insult of sorts. Somehow the presence of a love triangle ruins an otherwise fantastic book for many readers. Personally, I think a bad book is a bad book no matter the romantic arrangements of the characters.

This morning I walked in on the tail end of a conversation on Twitter. Someone wasn’t going to see a film they otherwise thought interesting because it was based on a YA book and there was a love triangle, because all YA has love triangles obviously. There were several people who responded in confusion, because they couldn’t remember a love triangle at all. Oh, maybe it was that boy, the one who fancied her, but wasn’t the boyfriend?

Cast your minds back to high school. It might be a little foggy, but try. I’m pretty sure you fancied more than one person. Maybe you were even naughty and snogged someone who wasn’t your official partner behind the bike sheds? I’m also pretty sure no one called these liaisons love triangles. They were just part of figuring out what you wanted and also bad judgements. Some people were just plain promiscuous.

Multiple love interests are so prevalent in YA because they’re kind of prevalent in life. At my age, it’s hard to find someone single who is also a decent human being and on the same wavelength. When you’re a teenager, the pool of available partners is huge in comparison. And those bonds aren’t really bonded yet, so even if they’re together, there’s a good chance they will break up before graduation.

As Hannah pointed out this morning, most chick-lit has love triangles. They’re not usually described as such. There’s the good old Pride and Prejudice plot (which I love, it would be my guilty pleasure if I felt guilt over reading); woman likes man who seems perfect but turns out to be a nob and is probably lying about stuff, woman never liked the man who actually turns out to be perfect for her once they’ve got past that whole misunderstanding (probably spread by man number one). You stick this plot in a YA book and everyone would be screaming, LOVE TRIANGLE, YUCK in minutes.

Before Anita Blake got bad, there was an ongoing love triangle between her and Jean-Claude and Richard. It was part of the anticipation of picking up the next book; would she choose? Who will she end up with and can they remain friends? Will she change her mind?

Have certain books turned us against YA love triangles? There’s a lot of Twilight fatigue going on, which has already turned many people off vampires, no matter what the book is like. Having a huge franchise pushed down your throat is tiresome, but not every book should be compared against it. It’s plain unfair. If you’re going to blame your dislike of a book on the love triangle, take a step back and consider if you don’t like it because it's just not very well written.

Melodramatic teenage love is out in general. If your character can’t decide between two people they haven’t known very long because they will just die without them both in their life, you’re probably going to receive eye rolls and yawns. Your girl from scenario #2 is only going through normal teenage life. Adding a supernatural element to scenario #2 does not make it melodramatic, the writing and plot does.

So are you a lover or hater of love triangles? What do you consider a love triangle to be? If the love triangle is an aside to the main plot, will you let it slide? And more importantly, do you give different standards to different genres?


  1. I'd never thought about it this way before, but you are quite right, it only seems to be YA that has 'love triangle' branded on it. Like it can't handle a complicated relationship plotline (which it can).

    I also agree that the genre is judged on it's most popular books, which aren't always the best books of the genre.

    I don't mind love triangles as long as they aren't what the book is about and don't disrupt a good story - but I'm not much of a romance reader in general.

  2. A triangle for me is when Person A is attracted to person B and Person C, They BOTH are attracted to A and A strings one/both along. I've read a few of them and am now personally bored with it. But I go through stages and may enjoy it again. I would get bored if it was in a genral fiction book as well though!

    1. Now that's quite a specific scenario that I can understand people not liking. But I see people shout love triangle when there's more than one love interest, in whatever form.

  3. Not necessarily just in YA..Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum has Ranger & Joe and yes I am sick of that love triangle too!...I think with scenario A people consider that an affair not a love triangle but I see your point that really they are the same thing..I myself don't like either love triangles or affairs.

  4. Hmmm, thoughts.... I generally don't consider it a love triangle until there is ya know love? Someone crushing on two different people, sure that happens plenty, but once there is expression of deep love to two people I roll my eyes. I'm not a fan of cheating no matter what age group is involved. I generally prefer the romance to be a minor part of a story, and when a love triangle is included, that's generally to make the love angst a more central aspect of the series ya know? But I don't find love triangles realistic since I honestly have never seen one (by my definition mentioned earlier of there being actual love expressed to two people). Generally I hope even in high school that people won't put up with someone cheating on them or giving the impression of monogamous interest and then also professing love to someone else. I just generally don't like characters that put up with that long term :-/

    1. I personally think you can love more than one person. It's when you act upon it that it becomes cheating. Quite often characters aren't even in relationships , it's about decisions.

      There's what some people would call a love triangle in Night School which is all about the character learning the difference between romantic love and friendship love; something that takes a while to work out when you're young.

    2. I guess I don't consider it a love triangle unless the characters actually discuss their feelings or heavily imply their feelings. It's the decision to make your feelings known that then can cause drama and jealousy. I certainly have had crushes on other people despite being in a long-term relationship, but I would never tell the other person and make sure my behavior doesn't give the wrong impression about my intentions.

      Of course poly relationships are a whole other topic and while they technically count as love triangles (or more sided), I don't consider them such because everyone involved is consenting to the relationship dynamics. It's when at least one person isn't consenting or comfortable with the dynamics that drama is likely to ensue and that drama annoys me. Whenever there is the implication that the (usually) girl has to eventually choose between the love interests, it is kind of implied that the love interests aren't okay with the situation long term.

  5. I do wonder if YA is held up to some moral standard and adult is not. The best characters are flawed. Sometimes they need to do things we don't agree with for the sake of the plot. Maybe this is another blog post in itself!

    I never read a book expecting it to be some guidance for life. I might feel hurt for the characters but if they cheat and there are consequences, that's sort of a moral story too.

  6. I hate love triangles, but I would narrowly define that as when one character can't decide between love interests. For instance, I would not describe what happens in Pride and Prejudice as a love triangle. What bothers me about love triangles is when one character selfishly keeps two other characters dangling while she (or he, if that ever happens) makes up her mind. I have a hard time liking someone who would be that selfish or liking the love interests who are willing let someone else treat them like that.


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