We all have tropes and plot devices that we dislike. For some it’s alpha males, mean girls, or a dead character not actually staying dead. Of course, everyone has their reasons for disliking a certain trope, and they’re all pretty much valid (unless you’re tired of see f/f romances or “diversity for the sake of diversity” or something similar, in which case go away.) And what doesn’t work for some, is another person’s crack. However, one romantic trope that seems to be universally disliked is the dreaded Love Triangle.
Typically, you can see a love triangle coming from a mile away. Key phrasing on the dust jacket alone can send up glaring red flags. I know a lot – A LOT – of readers who go running at the first sign of a romantic polygon, and I understand, to a point. But as someone who isn’t quite as invested in romances the way many readers seem to be, I’m here to tell you why I don’t think they’re the most terrible blight upon our fiction.
First of all, these are teens we’re talking about. I know that a ton of people married their first significant other, but high school sweetheart forevers aren’t typical. What is typical, is the rapid-changing heart of a teenager who is totally enamored by one boy this week, but comes back to school on Monday with eyes only for… someone else. When I was in high school, which wasn’t very long ago, it wasn’t unheard of to see couples breaking up and within days each separate half finding someone new. What was rare was to see couples stay together for years. I’ve lived both experiences and I feel pretty safe in saying that most teenagers are in fact lead by hormones and thus ride those waves from person to person, at least for a little while. This isn’t discounting the things teenagers feel – of course, it is all genuine and it is intense and I’d never for a second disbelieve any of it. These feelings are real, however fleeting, and so I find it perfectly acceptable that a teenager will have multiple romantic endeavors over the course of a book or series.
People love in different ways. I’ve heard so many times that it’s only possible to be in love once, and if you fall in love with someone else (even later in life!) then one of the relationships wasn’t Real Love. First of all, f you very much for policing another person’s relationships and trying to invalidate their feelings. Second, what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. A teenager who grows up to be a poly adult will likely go through a string of relationships that are already complicated without other people’s judgment. When you’re that young, it’s hard to put into words the things you’re feeling, especially if those feelings go against the grain of mainstream society. Now, I’m not saying that every girl who finds herself at a point of a love triangle is polyamorous, but I’d caution against passing judgment on young people growing up and getting to know themselves.
Now, for a less serious note, love triangles are just plain fun. I’m not an advocate for leading someone on or manipulating someone who loves you (but those things do happen – and often – no matter the person’s intentions.) But I do love the good back-and-forth of a love triangle. Often in YA, each boy represents a different side of the girl. In fiction, the stakes are higher, and so choosing one boy isn’t as simple as choosing who to kiss – it’s choosing which path you want your life to take. It’s choosing what kind of person you want to be. The boys aren’t just boys, but their metaphors and that’s almost always a lot of fun. And who doesn’t love a hot love interest? Why not add another! You get all the perks of YA romance, doubled.
I know I’m one of the few, but I just don’t think love triangles are of the devil the way most readers seem to. I don’t go seeking them out, but I also don’t do anything to avoid them. I don’t like them when they’re forced, but if an author is forcing a love triangle, odds are there are many other things wrong with their book and I’ll skip it, love triangle or no. A few of my favorite love triangles are from books like The Hunger Games, The Wrath and the Dawn, Throne of Glass, and Confessions of Georgia Nicolson.
What do you think of love triangles? Are there any other romance tropes that you like but everyone else seems to hate? Let me know!