For those who have read even one of my first three book reviews, which you can find here, here, and here, you know my dislike of the love triangle theme running rampant through YA literature right now. Now, love triangles are not a new phenomenon, nor even a surprising one for YA literature. I mean, look at the classics that offer love triangles as their major storyline: A Tale of Two Cities, The Age of Innocence, Gone with the Wind, even The Great Gatsby, which I recently taught in my 1920s & 30s course.
I have never really liked them, even as a teen myself. Don’t get me wrong. I was the typical teenage girl who loved a good romance, probably too much…LOL! But, when it was a love triangle book, I tended to feel like I was being cheated out of a real love story. Because, when you have two fighting over one, there is always a loser and I almost always ended up feeling really sad for the loser and thinking about all the reasons the chooser chose the wrong one, which led me to think the love between the winner and the chooser was not a real love.
Even today, in adult novels, when I pick up even a hint of a love triangle, I tend to give up and move on. I don’t like thinking love is a game. And most love triangle novels treat it as a game. There has to be a winner. There has to be a loser. I am sure there are novels out there where the winner and chooser live happily ever after as friends with the loser, but I don’t buy that premise either. It’s hard for the loser to stick around and see the winner and chooser so happy. I mean really! And, I am sure there are novels where both chasers are losers and the chooser lives a great life alone or with someone COMPLETELY unexpected, yet practical (please let me know if you find one!).
My biggest concern with the love triangle idea deals with its pervasive existence in current YA literature. Our girls need lead female characters who struggle with life’s obstacles, but not every character needs to fall in love. Not every lead female character needs to choose between boy one and boy two. Our girls need lead female characters who can be friends with any one, regardless of gender. Our girls do NOT need more emphasis on love (with another person) as being a necessity to happiness. Don’t get me wrong, we all want and need to be loved, but our girls need to realize love comes in many forms, not just romantic love.
And, the love triangle usually involves such stock characters–the “bad” boy/the boy from the “wrong” side of the tracks/the boy with some “special, sad” circumstance vs the “good” boy/the boy from the “right” side of the tracks/the boy who everyone loves. It diminishes the human character spectrum into the idea of good vs. bad, ignoring the infinite range of characteristics humans can possess. This leads to young girls thinking in terms of good vs bad and ignoring smaller, more defining qualities of boys. Just as we can stereotype and show prejudices against people because of race, gender, and more, the love triangle books tend to encourage stereotyping based on the good vs bad ideal.
Stepping off the soapbox now. Or at least for the moment 😉 !