I’ve been posting a lot of book reviews lately, so I thought I’d mix things up with a Book Discussion. The topic of love triangles has been on my mind, because I’ve seen it floating around in many “Tropes I Hate” lists or “YA Tropes That Need To Go”. And this brought up the question: Why is it that so many people hate love triangles? Is it because it adds unnecessary drama? Are there books where love triangles actually could work?
When I think of love triangles, the Hunger Games trilogy is the first to pop in my mind. Throughout all of Katniss’ badass-ery, the whole dystopian setting, and a rebellion, the tiny question of “Who does Katniss belong with” is floating around in the subplots. I can see why this would offend many people. Katniss is so awesome, so strong and brave, yet the one question that everyone seems preoccupied with is who she should be with. Because a girl’s worth is determined by who she is with and a girl has to be with somebody? I don’t know if I totally agree with this analysis of the love triangle, but I can see why it comes to mind when reading this trilogy. To me personally, this love triangle never really bothered me because the choice seemed so obvious (Peeta, obviously!). I gushed over the cute Peeta/Katniss moments, skipped over the Gale/Katniss moments, and kept reading for the plot. But if the choice was so obvious, why did Suzanne Collins include it? I think in this case, it actually had a deeper meaning. Gale represented her life before the Hunger Games, and Peeta her life afterwards. Ultimately, her decision to choose Peeta is a recognition that life can never be the same as it was before, no matter how much she wanted it to be. In this case, I don’t believe Suzanne Collins included it to add drama. Since the love triangle added something deeper to the story, I can actually respect it.
I’ve mentioned this love triangle before, because it’s so iconic to me, but even though it’s so emotionally wrenching, I think the love triangle actually worked. One of the reasons I usually hate love triangles is that I can’t relate; one option usually stands out to me. This means that for the majority of the book, the main character just seems oblivious and silly, since to me there is one obvious choice. But not in this trilogy. Both love interests legitimately seemed like a good option when she was considering them, and I still can’t tell you if I’m happy with the ending, a year later. To me, this love triangle worked because Jenny Han actually made it as confusing as it must feel to actually be in it. Even though it was a driving force of plot in the book, this was also focused on Belly growing up and healing. It was as much about her discovering herself as it was choosing which one she loves the most
Since these were examples of love triangles that actually worked, here’s an example of one that completely did not work for me.
If you haven’t read this one yet, don’t. I’m not usually so mean to books and authors, but this love triangle will honestly drive you crazy. I think I threw my Kindle at the wall while reading it (and then ran over to it and comforted it and felt so guilty for hurting it). You can tell just by looking at the cover that this book was going to be all about the love triangles. And worse than that, there’s also cheating involved! This book was the epitome of an author adding a love triangle in to add unnecessary drama. The choice was so obvious there wasn’t even a competition, but Harper, the main character, still chooses the wrong one, and worse, the author kills off the other guy! As if to get him out of the way so the choice can be easier! There is honestly no other plot besides the love triangle, and the main character acts so ditzy and the two other boys are like oblivious to the way she treats them and takes her back no matter what. This love triangle offered nothing to the story and is the perfect example of why readers hate love triangles.
So it’s not just every love triangle that I hate. I have a couple theories why I (and generally others) hate certain love triangles.
- It’s so overused. Besides the ones I mentioned above, Twilight, Unearthly, The Selection, Matched, Catching Jordan, Secret Girlfriend, Defying Gravity and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before all have love triangles. And these are just the books I’ve read! It’s just thrown in there so much now that it’s lost its value.
- The formula is always the same. Will we ever be given a love triangle that doesn;t include one beautiful-girl-who-thinks-she’s-plain choosing between two hot and attractive guys who couldn’t possibly be into her but somehow are? The world may never know? Even a girl-girl-boy love triangle would mix things up and be more interesting. And I feel like if a boy ever is the main character in a love triangle, it’s always a pseudo love triangle, where the boy had a crush on a girl for a long time but met this other girl that he actually likes and realizes his feelings for the first girl was shallow. The reader, the writer, the entire family, everybody knows that he’s going to choose the second girl. Everybody knows but him.
- There’s never really a competition. The whole point of a love triangle is that one of them can’t choose between the two love interests because they both are so. damn. good. But too often the author ends up hyping up one character so much, making them the perfect fit for the main character, that you just know they’re going to choose that perfect character. And then there’s a disconnect between the character and the reader, because the reader doesn’t see any competition between the two love interests or understand the confused feeling. And a disconnect between the protagonist and the reader is never a good thing, because then the actions all seem trivial and silly and the whole novel has lost its appeal.
This is my take on love triangles. There are some that work for me, but overall a majority of them fall into the three criteria above and become useless and hated.
What is your opinion on love triangles? Is there some that you like? Is there a love triangle that just didn’t work for you? Why do you think people hate love triangles?