The Perplexing Love Triangle
A few days ago I was wandering around Barnes and Noble, checking out the new reads, and I landed in the young adult section. The bold titles and bright colored covers caught my eye and I knew I had to at least pick them up even if my empty wallet begged me not to. As I read the summaries on the book jackets, I found myself stumbling across an ever growing, very popular scenario—the love triangle.
The love triangle is a popular plot device that brings conflict and excitement. It creates something for audiences to talk—and argue—about. Which suitor will the protagonist choose? And who is better for that character? But, why are love triangles so common? And why do I find them so annoying?
The young adult genre has become practically overrun with love triangles. Romantic tension fills the pages almost to the point where the main story is overshadowed. I’ll admit that there is an air of excitement that comes with the unpredictability of a love triangle. But it frustrates me when the love triangle takes over and becomes the only thing that is important. Almost everything that is popular in young adult fiction has a love triangle—the Mortal Instruments, the Vampire Diaries, Twilight, the Delirium Series—I could go on forever.
Today’s popular love triangle lies within The Hunger Games, where the media has forced fans to choose from ‘Team Peeta’ or ‘Team Gale.’ The buzz of the books, and now movies, revolves around who Katniss ‘really loves.’ But, if one closely looks at the books, they are never about Katniss and her love interests. Peeta and Gale exist in the story as separate entities who both care for Katniss but never force her to choose between them. In fact, Katniss could care less to choose between the two. Her focus in the series is to protect her sister and create a better world for everyone to live in.
When Katniss focuses on her sister, it brings out familial love—a concept that can be overshadowed by the romantic love. It is so important for young adult novels to explore other types of love within the stories, whether it is familial, self, or communal. In this genre, there is very little representation of the vastly different types of love a person can have. Love pops up in all forms in life and it needs accurate representation within novels.
Love triangles tend to take something away from the plot. Many are cheap tricks that create tension when the actual story is having a hard time solving its dead space. Others are just overdramatic representations of teenage love and angst. They frustrate me because romanticizes something that isn’t actually romantic at all. Sure, it may be fun for the character choosing, to have two people in love with them. But, for the other ends of the triangle, it seems to be a let-down, a disappointment to have someone you are in love with be in love with someone else, too. To me, that is far from compelling love.
Are love triangles really what we need in novels, especially within the young adult genre? Sure, it may lead to a compelling story, but these protagonists are always forced to choose in the end. I’d like to see a triangle that ends with no choice. Now, wouldn’t that be empowering?