Monday, August 8, 2011

An Epidemic Of Triangles

(May contain references to spoilers.)

Girl meets boy, girl likes boy, girl meets another boy, girl likes other boy… too.

The love triangle. A common theme in numerous young adult novels. In the case of a stand alone story, the girl often ends up with the better of the two boys. Usually we get biased by the way the characters show their true colors--the one boy does something more heroic in word or deed, while the other does something stupid in word or deed. I’d say it’s a rare case for the author has the lead character go for the idiot. This way we are satisfied that the girl got her happily ever after. And when the story is told in a singular novel, we don’t find ourselves distressed for long, because the tale ends when the book ends.

This is not always the case with a series.

After reading the synopsis for Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium, the second novel in the Delirium series, some readers freaked out. The very idea of some secondary guy entering into the picture for Lena potentially trying to take place of their beloved Alex… the nerve! Nobody wants to read about the main character falling for somebody new when they’ve already fallen for the first guy. It seems to be infuriating to some readers.

But is it really?

Take, for example, a well known vampire series. In the first book, the vampire was built up as an amazing and wonderful and caring and loving guy. The girl falls in love with him. As the story progressed, she starts to fall for her friend too. Enter love triangle. Most know how it ends. Some wish she picked the other guy (not me). Regardless of how everyone feels, that series was read by millions. Not just read, but loved, and continues to be one of the most popular series to date.

Then I reflect on another story, this time a dystopia where you get set up with your marriage mate. The girl gets set up with a wonder young gentleman she’s known all her life. Then they play a trick on her and another boy is revealed to her by accident on a computer screen. So the What If’s start to happen. As you take in both of their personalities, you think they’re both great. Of course, you’re supposed to think she’s meant to be with the one who she was not set up with. But you could get irritated with the fact that the one she was set up with isn’t a bad person. And considering that they were messing with her head, it makes you wonder if she really does love the forbidden guy or if they just made her think she does.

For some reason, that book frustrated me. Usually I don’t find myself torn between the two possible loves. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been in a position to be torn between two boys. I’m always swayed one way or another. Often, I believe, by the author. Another reason for the swaying is how we feel about the circumstances. I am the person who roots for the underdog. Because of that, I root for the forbidden boy. But like I said, the other guy’s a sweetie.

Does this mean I’m not going to read the next book? Of course not! I was pulled into the story, into their world, I need to know what happens in the end. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way I’d like it to be.

Even though we may feel a twinge of irritation with our favorite character falling for who we think is the wrong person, the journey is what keeps us reading. The journey of finding out the end, or that character’s happily ever after. Don’t let a book synopsis to get you riled (I’m actually quite excited for Pandemonium still). A love triangle can be maddening, but we subconsciously love it. It may be unintentional. But that’s why we keep reading them. And that’s why authors keep writing them.

PS: Ironically, this was written prior to last weeks Top Ten Tuesday. Readers may not be loving the love triangles but I beg to differ (because I'm irritated at times and still read them myself).


  1. Fantastic post Jessica! I have to agree with everything you said. I am currently infuriated with the Hunger Games love triangle (I'm not as creative as you in hiding the title in a description. hehe) and am finding myself very much bored of triangles. Maybe it's not even because I like one guy over the other. I think it's more how the 'other' guy is portrayed after the happily ever after.

    I did a similar post not long ago. Check it out here The Write Obsession

  2. I read your post! When I was scrolling down my blog list and saw your post title I thought, "Oh no! Someone's doing a post like my post for next week!" When I read it I relaxed because it wasn't exactly like mine. Lol. It was a great post, looking at it from a writer's perspective. ^_^ Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Ah, the love triangle. My real problem with them is...I can't think of one that really was a triangle. Seriously! There's no mystery as to who the MC will choose...EVER! I always know and I always like the other guy! And THAT is why I hate them! If there was a triangle that actually had the MC in conflict, real conflict, about who she really loved I'd be hooked, but what really happens is she loves one guy forever and ever and the other guy that loves her is the one in conflict. So, maybe she wonders about the poor unloved conflicted guy but we all know she's not going to choose him so why even have him in there?! I could go on and on but I won't. Yeah, I keep reading books with them in it but that's just because it's almost impossible to pick up a book where there isn't one.

  4. Yes! You just hit the nail on the head there. Most of the time there is no point to the other guy being there. It's almost thrown in there for conflict and drama's sake only. Like there's no other outside conflict going on, so here's something else in the meantime to shake things up. Lol. It is hard to find something without triangles.

  5. Jess, let's face it. We readers will always be in a love/hate relationship with love triangles. And we'll never stop wanting to blog/share about it. There's never too many posts about love triangles! And Jenny is 100% right. I've never read a book where it's not obvious who will win out. The other guys is always a waste of time.

  6. Hi there, lady! I'm a brand new follower, just wanted to stop by and introduce myself. Marie (Ramblings of a Daydreamer) gave us all the "Leibster" award so I figured I'd take a chance and follow you. Looking forward to getting to know you, and I hope you'll drop by my blog, as well! : ) triangles. Ugh. If they are well done AND further the plot of the story, I'm okay with them. If not...I don't want 'em. ;)

  7. I'm in the middle of one with a love triangle and it's got me all anxious. But in a good way. Stupid love triangles! Anyways. Thanks everyone for the chat on them. ^_^ Molli: Following you now!

  8. I think the issue with love triangles is just that they're so overused as a means to create drama. It feels a little lazy when writers constantly throw in another guy as the obstacle in the main couple's relationship, instead of a more organic and realistic conflict. I'm a little more forgiving of love triangles when a) they are present or hinted at from the beginning and not something that's been thought up because otherwise there'd be no plot for the 2nd book and b) it actually seems likely that the heroine would be torn between these 2 people (i.e. they're both good for in different ways).


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