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Love Triangles in YA Literature

Nothing makes me want to chuck a book against the wall like reading a love triangle. Or at least the standard love triangles that are usually employed in YA fiction.

For one, they are in just about every YA fantasy book that I can find. They usually go like this: There is girl. Girl has best friend. Girl meets other boy. Best friend and boy both like girl and girl kinda likes both of them back even though she can't make up her damn mind until the end of the series. Nothing makes a girl look as much of a simpering, shallow idiot than this kind of dichotomy. While Twilight and Hunger Games set the precedent, it's time for YA writers to find a new way to express romance (to Suzanne Collins' credit, she did not make Katniss look like a simpering, shallow idiot although the love triangle present in the Hunger Games trilogy did cheapen the message of the book).

I'm not entirely against love triangles. I am only against this kind of triangle. At this point, using this kind of love triangle in a story is tantamount to littering a book with idiomatic descriptions. Actually, it's worse. Go ahead and use phrases like "cute as a button" and "sweet as pie" and I would read those descriptors gladly over having to endure this stupid, annoying trope.

The one straight girl/two straight guys love triangle will never, ever work at the present. That's just a fact. If you're an author who wants to write one, I strongly recommend you wait ten years or so before publishing it. All other love triangles need to be used sparingly and only after careful consideration. The author needs to ask herself the following: Will this cheapen the message I am trying to deliver in this story? Is this out-of-character for any character involved? Will this add anything to the story? If she answers yes to any of these questions, she should avoid this course of action. Most of all, this will only work if it unfolds in a realistic way and if the characters are real, fleshed-out people.

A love triangles, with the above model kept in mind, still can work if they have a little revamping. And that's what I'm proposing here. Instead of having this tired old formula, maybe these writers can actually be original. Maybe, most simply, write in the point of view of one of the guys involved in one of these triangles. Or, an even more radical idea, write something else entirely!

For starters, maybe these YA writers can change the genders and sexuality of these characters. A basic change could involve a complete switcheroo: a guy and two feuding girls instead of a girl and two feuding guys. Or, maybe, these writers could go even deeper. For example, Suzanne Collins, if she felt such a pressing need to include an unnecessary love triangle in an otherwise fine story, could have made Gale or Peeta gay. I'll go with Gale for simplicity's sake. Now, where would the love triangle come in? one might ask. Good question, dear reader. Gale could like Peeta, who likes Katniss, who likes Gale. Simple enough but interesting. Perhaps our beloved heroine could fall for Peeta later on in the story and, while still loving Gale, could end up with Peeta in the end. Similar love triangles could also ensue within YA books, making them a bit more diverse in nature and also increasing LGBT visibility in the process. Or, to make it more interesting and diverting it away from the Gay Best Friend of Girl stereotype, maybe make a guy fall for his lesbian friend who loves the girl who loves him. The possibilities are endless and a million times more interesting.

Perhaps we could even throw in forbidden love in the process too. My favorite love triangle of all time is the one in the Wicked Lovely series between Leslie, Niall and Irial. Yes, it involves one girl and two guys. The twist? Basically, they all are in love with each other but none of them can successfully be with each other. Leslie is a human and Niall and Irial are faeries; being with them would be detrimental to Leslie and, accepting this, both let her go. As for Niall and Irial, they love each other but, because of a terrible betrayal that Irial has committed against Niall, Niall cannot bring himself to be with him. I love how Melissa Marr pulls this off and it definitely enriched the story.

I am writing this because I have had enough. I simply cannot handle any more of these tired, formulaic romances that have absolutely no basis in reality. Too many otherwise great book series (because it almost always happens in a series) have been ruined by employing this. Something needs to change.




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