12 November 2011

YA Love Triangles

It seems that almost every second YA book I've read recently has a love triangle in it. Typically, they involve two gorgeous men/boys vying for the affection of the heroine. I can see the basic appeal in the love triangle storyline – many of us would love to have the attention and affection of two prime examples of manhood (or almost-manhood). It's an appealing fantasy. But I'm starting to get tired of them. The fantasy has begun to tarnish and what was once shiny is now dull and commonplace.

These love triangles come in one of two broad categories:

  • In the first, the love interests are unevenly matched. One of the suitors is clearly going to be the eventual 'winner' – the way he is described and the way the heroine swoons all over him makes her final choice far too easy and obvious. It also means the reader has to slog through the book waiting for her to make the decision you've known she is going to make since the first chapter. It's all very tedious. The second love interest becomes largely incidental to the plot very quickly. You end up feeling sorry for him as he pursues a woman who is never going to choose him. The entire point of this category of love triangle seems to be to introduce unnecessary tension into the story. Or maybe the author doesn't want the relationship to be as obvious as: boy-meets-girl, instant-attraction, lifelong-happiness. Because that's what it boils down to when you remove the distraction of the second love interest from the equation.

  • In the second, the two men are usually polar-opposites, but equally attractive options for the heroine. Usually there's the bad boy who discovers a lighter side thanks to the heroine. And then there's the good guy who may have a darker side that come out in the contest for the heroine's affection. Or they are sworn enemies (eg. werewolf and vampire) who struggle to put aside their differences to protect the heroine. She spends the book or series struggling with her feelings as each gorgeous and near-perfect love interest vies for her attention. This category of love triangle is the one I prefer to read if there is one in the story. But the heroine's indecision and angst can get quite tiresome if it's stretched out over a whole series. Eventually I feel like grabbing her by the shoulders and telling her to: make a decision, any decision! In this category readers tend to fall for one or the other of the men, so when the heroine's decision is finally made the author runs the risk of disappointing at least half of his/her readers.

I'd like to believe that there are other ways to introduce tension and romance into a story. Perhaps an ex-girlfriend shows up and ignites jealousy in the heroine, or the romance can blossom more slowly than the instant-attraction kind that is so popular at the moment.

So YA writers, please keep writing, but give the love triangle a break!

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