Friday, March 7, 2014

One Window, Two Views {Love Triangles in YA}

Arianne and I are so excited to bring you this new feature! One Window, Two Views will be a weekly meme where we will discuss a topic from each of our points of view.  Please join the discussion! 

Arianne: People say that love triangles in YA are a love/hate issue, but I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that. It’s not a case of love or hate – it’s a case of good writing versus bad writing. While I usually prefer singular or monogamous YA romances, love triangles are like any other plot device and they can be fantastically well-written. They can be engaging and genuinely heart-wrenching. But, like any other plot device, they can also be written badly – in books where one love interest is highly favoured over the other, where the end choice is obvious from the start, or where the love triangle defines the main character entirely, as if they don’t have lives outside the romantic choice they’re faced with. If a book has any of these features, it almost always detracts from my enjoyment of the novel.

Liza: I don’t really mind love triangles as long as they are well done.  What I mean by that is that I really don’t like to read about infidelity – if you really don’t know your own feelings, the wait until you do before you act – and I don’t like when a female character leads two men/boys on for no apparent reason.  I do hope that people in general (and specially teens) know better than that.  Also, in real life, this doesn’t happen as often as it seems to happen in books. As you said, some books revolve solely on the love triangle, there’s no plot, no story, just the angst of making ‘the choice’.

Arianne: Of course, it’s unfair to dismiss all books which have a triangle-based romance, especially as some of my favourite books of all time feature them.  When I think of these books – from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi to The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han – I don’t automatically think about the love triangle. I think about the story, the writing and the characters as people, not just placeholders. That’s the key difference between a great young adult love story and a lesser imitation – they can’t be easily defined. There’s not just once choice to make, but many; it’s not just a question of choosing the hot bad boy over the shy nice guy. There’s more to it than that. They don’t feel as if the writer as set out thinking “Well, people who read young adult books like love triangles, so I’ll just put one in here without developing it and see how it goes”. They’re complex and funny and tragic and well-realized, not thrown in because it fits a stereotypical description of what YA fans like to read about. That’s why I’d never issue a ban on love triangles in YA, because when they’re done right, they’re not just love triangles anymore. They’re part of something bigger.

Liza:  I think we all have favorites that involve love triangles. I’ve read the first two books of Cassadra Clare’s Infernal Devices and there is clearly a love triangle here, but it is not what defines the story.  The plot is go intricate and the writing and characterization so good, that the reader also cannot help but fall in love with Will and Jem.  That, dear readers, is the way a good love triangle is done.  Another prime example of this is the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa.  Even though both boys were in love with Meghan, she clearly only had eyes for one of them.  I think the triangle was in the mind of Puck and Ash, but not hers.  Her choice was always clear, even to the other two corners of the triangle.  There is also the case when there is the suggestion of a love triangle that it really isn’t one.  For instance, in The Hunger Games (team Peeta or Team Dale, anyone?) I never felt like Dale had any change with Katniss, in fact, he didn’t even act like he was in love with her (not like Peeta), but I think the readers wanted to create a triangle, so they did.  I am, in fact, ignoring the big elephant in the room, a.k.a. Twilight – we might require a post just to get through with that one!

Arianne: When it comes to YA love triangles, I just want to see things that are different. I want to see a guy trying to choose between two girls instead of a girl trying to choose between two boys. I want to see a guy trying to choose between two other guys, or a girl trying to choose between two other girls. I want to see unusual takes on the classic triangle, and less of the ‘guy with paranormal power swoops in to take ordinary girl away from the ordinary guy she would have ended up with otherwise’. I want authors who understand the difference between teenage love and teenage attraction, and give us credit for being able to choose between the two rationally and carefully. Maybe I’d like to see a book where the main character chooses neither of the love interest in the triangle at all! The point is, if there absolutely has to be a love triangle in your story, the more intricate and the more disguised you can make it, the more chance you’ll have of me enjoying it.

What are your thoughts about love triangles? Do your love them? Hate them? Do you think they can be done better? What are your favorites? What are some of your not so favorites?  

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I love comments! Please leave me one and I will try to reply as soon as I can. Liza


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