Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why the Love Triangle?

I was tempted to call this post "In Defense of the Love Triangle" but I thought that might turn some people away. In all honesty, I'm not defending the Love Triangle, but I'm looking at it from maybe a different angle. It just seems like everybody complains about them- which I completely understand. Anyway, on to the post...

Love 'em or hate 'em, they're always there, in the books we hate and the books we love. And I've seen plenty of bloggers complain- er, talk about- the overuse of the love triangle. But does anybody ever question WHY the love triangle is so popular?

Did it start with Twilight? That's what a lot of people like to think. While Twilight capitalized on the love triangle, I'm pretty sure Stephenie Meyer didn't invent it.

A little while ago, I came across a blog post on this very subject by Carrie Ryan, author of a fantastic series The Forest of Hands and Teeth which contains a love triangle. She does a great job of explaining the real purpose of a love triangle. I'll share just a little bit of the post, though I encourage you to check out the whole thing if you've read her books and don't mind the spoilers you'll find there:

To me, that's the essence of a love triangle -- each man is a viable choice for the heroine but each speaks to a different part of who she is. The heroine isn't choosing between two men, she's choosing who SHE wants to be and that will dictate who the right match is.

There you have it, thanks to the fabulous Carrie Ryan! I think this is why love triangles are so popular in YA- they allow the heroine to choose between who she wants to be in the end, and allow for that side of her character to grow.

I'm not saying they aren't overused, though. It would still be really nice if authors could start coming up with new ways to grow and change their characters, without involving the choice to be between two boys. But I'm also pretty sure you can't claim you HATE books with love triangles. They can be an awesome asset to a book.

Having said that, I hesitate more to pick up a book when it's clear there's a love triangle from the summary. (Example: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. I've heard so much about the love triangle, that I'm not all that interested because it seems so generic.)

And sometimes I think there's a love triangle when there doesn't need to be. Example, Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers. I'm one of those people who LOVED Luc, but couldn't even understand why Frannie was ever even attracted to Gabe with Luc around. Sure, I get the point was making the choice between Heaven and Hell, but while reading the book, I didn't feel like Gabe or Luc represented either on of them, actually. And a lot of people wished for Gabe's POV, while I just wished he would leave! This might just be me, though! It was still a great book, I just wish it didn't have a love triangle, it would've been even better.

But on the other hand, I could make a decent size list of books that are good because of the love triangle. The Hunger Games and Nightshade are two prime examples.

It's also frustrating as a reader to have to make the choice between two great guys (à la Nightshade) but it's even worse to see the guy who doesn't get chosen be left off on their own. I am so sad for characters like Simon in City of Bones and Oliver in Blue Bloods- I hope both of them get some of their own romance in the upcoming installments of their respective series!

Bottom line: When it comes to love triangles, they're WAY overused, but... I still like a lot of books with them anyway, because it's hard to deny they usually make for a great plot device and source of choice and growth for the heroine.

Please, share your thoughts! I'd love to hear them. :)


  1. Wow. Exactly! And, I've been caught in the midst of love triangles at several points in my life. In each, I was at a crossroads and had to choose who I was going to become. Luckily, I think I chose the right path, which lead to me marrying an amazing man and becoming the person I am today. But, at each point where I had to choose, it wasn't always so much about the guys but about the values, beliefs, and general actions I was going to take.

    So, for those who complain about the true love triangle, where a character is deciding between two paths (represented by each of the men in her life), I think maybe you need to look back at your own dating history. Don't you remember sitting with that perfectly nice and average guy on a date, nodding and "yes-ing" to his monologues, all while staring at that guy with the long hair and leather jacket? I certainly do! And, I married that guy. Life is much funner now!

  2. And another thing to add is that they're also usually easy to relate to because love triangles are common in real life. And I really loved them when I was little. I think there was one in a Sweet Valley High book that was really interesting. The only thing that bothers me is when one of the guys in the love triangle is not really attractive in any way and is just there so that there can be a love triangle. I find that really annoying. But all in all, I don't mind a good love triangle. The one in City of Bones was heartbreaking because I really like Simon but I could understand the difficulty of the decision.

    Great post! You've helped to keep my complaining in check :)

  3. I read the article by Carrie Ryan about love triangles, and couldn't agree more! I do dislike it when the love triangles are so obviously generic (Personal Demons, there's an angel and a demon-- obvious good guy/bad boy). But sometimes love triangles just happen, and they're a great way of showing how a heroine chooses her own path. Great post! :)

  4. Thanks to all of you for agreeing with me. I was hoping people wouldn't hate it!

    And, Unforgettable, glad to know somebody else felt bad for Simon! It seems like everybody LOVED Jace, and while I liked him, I don't think Simon ever got nearly enough love.

  5. The first love triangle I encountered in YA was WAY before Twilight, back in the mid-90's. Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet starred Alanna, a girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to become a knight. Along the way she befriends and develops feelings for two of her peers. One is the crowned prince who trains alongside her (and is one of the first to discover her secret), while the other is the local king of thieves who appears every now and again when she needs it (and who I'm pretty sure was the first to discover her secret). Both are strong supports and friends to her, but I will admit I was pulling for one over the other...

    When she ends up with the other, I was flabbergasted. I simply couldn't see how she could have picked him!

    Then, I read a Q&A session with the author, where she admitted she'd originally wrote the story with Alanna picking my fave...and it haunted her. She realized that there was no way for Alanna to be who she wanted if she married that man. And so, while she loves both men and is fiercely loyal to them, she really had only once choice...which is what is published today.

    (Another thing I love about the series is that in book 3, Alanna goes soul searching by herself (with minimal intrusions from either man). Take THAT, Bella!)

  6. Very thoughtful! I found this post through a blogroll on another blog. I definitely agree with you, love triangles can work really well when there is a real purpose for them and they grow the characters. It goes wrong when they're just there for the sake of it.

    Also, I just wanted to let you know that I'm a new follower :)

  7. @Vicki: Great example! I haven't read anything by Tamora Pierce but I've heard those books are awesome.

    @Stephanie: Thanks for following! I'm glad you agree. :)


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