November 13, 2011

Love Triangles: Yay or Nay?

I’ve been wanting to write a discussion post on love triangles for SO LONG. Most recently I was inspired by the thoughts in Brenna’s post about Boys in YA and Lisa Bergren’s on The Perils of Love Triangulation. So, here it goes:

I'm not a fan of love triangles in most books, because they seem to be there as a gimmick. Like it's expected or something, especially in YA paranormal romance. And most of the time I really dislike them because they're very badly done. There's the best friend who's always been there and happens to be in love with the girl, and then there's a new gorgeous and slightly dangerous guy who the girl wants to be with despite his emotionally abusive actions. I'm totally generalizing, but that's the basic pattern I see over and over again, and it just doesn't work at all. It doesn't make sense, and there's no real reason for the triangle. There are so many other sources of tension you could create, and I would so much rather read about the development of a relationship over the course of a novel instead of insta-love and fighting over the inclusion of a second romantic option.

But there are also love triangles that make a lot of sense. I don’t think there’s just one person out there for each person. It takes a huge combination of personality traits and actions for that one person to suddenly appear special. Now most of the time in real life I don't think a girl has two guys fighting over her, but in a book I think it works to help tell the story of who the character is and what direction she's going in, how she's learning and growing... her choice of guy helps tell this story to the reader. I would never want to wrap up a woman’s identity in her choice of man, but I do honestly think that all our choices (friendship, romantic, heck even our favourite colours) make us who we are and help show that to others. And then there’s the humanity factor. Of course it makes sense for someone to sit up and pay attention when two suitors are presented. We're only human, right? We like validation about our own worth.

Where I think love triangles work well is where both guys are equally good options for the main character. They both care for her and respect her, and you could actually see her with either guy. I always think of the Shade trilogy by Jeri Smith-Ready as my example for this. I may not be the biggest Logan fan but it’s clear that he loves Aura, and without the whole non-corporeal ghost issue (no big, right?) it’s clear they would still be together. But then there’s Zachary who also loves Aura, and he has that small benefit of being alive. ;)

In all seriousness I do think love triangles can work, but it’s a fine line. I think it says something that it’s much easier for me to think of love triangles that make me want to throw the book across the room, rather than ones that make me smile and swoon.

What are your thoughts on love triangles? What are some examples of books that do this really badly OR really well? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Great article. I have very mixed feelings about love triangles, too. It really depends on whether the author keeps me guessing and, as you said, that all goes back to whether the options make sense in some way or another. I really enjoyed reading this. Have a great day!

  2. I read this title and I was like "UGH NO". But what I'd really like to see is a story with a love triangle centred around one boy and two girls. I think getting the girl protag's view on that kind of love triangle would be more of a character development. You think? :)

  3. I agree that well done love triangles are when I'm torn between two great guys. When I legitimately can't fathom who the MC will pick is when I'm majorly invested lol.
    Ooh and I agree with Eden! I can't recall a book with a guy in the middle of two girls..hmm.

  4. I agree, it would definitely be interesting to see more 1 guy, 2 girl love triangles. It would be great if there were one like that where both girls were good options, too, instead of the one girl being a bitch, which would be so typical and unfortunate.

  5. I definitely agree, Ashley! Love triangles can work when they're done right, but not when they're the default romantic twist of a novel. I don't usually like reading about two guys fighting over one girl, or when one guy likes the girl who likes another guy.

    As for a 1 guy, 2 girls triangle, the only one coming to mind recently is the Maze Runner trilogy... Thomas' feelings for the two girls are stretched out over the three books, and in fact I don't think the girls get much face time together. But it exists!

  6. Excellent post! We completely agree: love triangles are best when both guys are legitimate options. We also really like the way that Carrie Ryan described successful triangles, which is to say that each option should represent more than just a good-looking love interest. They should represent a choice that the main character has to make about themselves; which future do they want? Which version of themselves do they want to be?

    Interestingly enough, none of the 4 of us have love triangles in our manuscripts… ;)

  7. I can't stand love triangles anymore, at least, not most of the time. In the Maze Runner, the subtle love triangle with Teresa, Brenda, and Thomas was well done because it wasn't the focal point of the whole story. However, in others (like the best friend and the dangerous new guy example) it's like there's nothing else to the plot but that. It's dull and annoying. I really agree with a lot of what you said in your post!

  8. Interesting point about The Maze Runner; I've never really considered the romantic aspects of those books at all!

    Thanks to everyone for the great comments -- keep them coming! =)

  9. I Think triangles can work but it takes a lot of skill to pull them off.

    Mostly, I think I need to feel like there is a real chance the girl or boy will end up with either of their options, and at the same time like she or he aren't being total jerk and toying with other people's feelings.

    That's the fine line.

    Plus, I wanna see the character that didn't get chosen to get some closure and maybe even get a little on the road to their own happiness.

  10. I'm not a huge fan of love triangles. I find them too frustrating. If they are going to do one though, I think you're right. Both suitors have to be viable options :)


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment; I appreciate each one!


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