Welcome class, please take a seat. In case you’re unaware, my name is Amy, and today I will be your guest lecturer for Love Triangles 101 (hosted by A Novel Idea). Before I get into today’s topic, “Choosing the Losing Triangle Team,” I wanted to answer the age-old question (OK, maybe it’s not that old…): “Why do you think love triangles are so prevalent in YA, and how do you feel about them?”
I feel I have a somewhat unique perspective as someone who is an aspiring author. I know there are times I have started writing a story and I have the idea that Miss X and Mr. Y are going to hook up. So I start the story, things are grand, and then… in walks Mr. Z. Where did he come from?! Sometimes, I planned for him to be a character, but not one to ruin Miss X and Mr. Y’s blooming romance! Or sometimes, I don’t even know where Mr. Z came from, it’s just like he literally walked into my story and said, “This is a nice story, and I’mma gonna let you finish, but Miss X and I could be the greatest love story of all time. OF ALL TIME!”
Oh dear. What am I supposed to do now? Well, I continue writing, allowing Mr. Z in the picture. Or I stop. (I stop writing a lot of times when I hit roadblocks… which is why I am no where remotely ready to be published…) The fun thing about writing is your characters do take on a life of their own. But it’s also frustrating when you realize that means you don’t even know what direction the story is headed in. Will Mr. Z and Miss X end up together? Sometimes the answer’s yes, sometimes it’s no.
All this being said, I think some writers could legitimately experience this. Sometimes, it’s obvious the whole premise of the story is romantic, and the love triangle is probably pre-arranged in order to add drama and excitement. I have to admit, adding a love triangle to a story is a very easy way to spice it up. But if you’re not careful, it can also be annoying or cliche.
Why this happens so much in young adult specifically, I’m not sure, but it could possibly be a part of “The Hunger Games Effect.”
Though I personally feel there is a lot more to The Hunger Games than its love triangle, it is an element present that I’m sure left publishers interested in seeing more. And of course, there is also Twilight and its infamous love triangle, where I first heard about people choosing “teams” for the guy they preferred. If it sells, it’ll be written.
What do I think about this? Well, it all just depends on the love triangle: how it is woven into the story, its emphasis in the story, and of course, the ultimate outcome! Which leads me to today’s topic, the frustration that occurs when you choose the wrong team. Warning: below the picture, I will be spoiling The Maze Runner series, The Matched Trilogy, and The Hunger Games trilogy. You have been warned!
I think The Hunger Games was the first YA book I read where I really noticed the love triangle. In this instance, I actually choose the winning team, loved Peeta the moment we met him. Coming off this winning streak, I guess I figured I would always choose the winning side, because obviously the most likable choice is the right choice for our main character. Right?
Enter in Teresa and Xander, dashing these hopes to the ground!
First, here is a trend I noticed with the three books I have mentioned…
Introduced First: Gale
Introduced Second: Peeta
Introduced First: Xander
Introduced Second: Ky
Introduced First: Teresa
Introduced Second: Brenda
I’m sure this doesn’t happen with every love triangle, but seriously, can person #1 never catch a break? Sometimes the new mysterious guy (or gal) probably isn’t all they are cracked up to be!
Back to Exhibit C: The Maze Runner
We are first introduced to Teresa in The Maze Runner when she is the first girl to arrive in the Glade. She almost immediately goes comatose, but our main character Thomas still feels a strong connection to her, even believing that he is speaking with her telepathically. She is trying to give him a message about their past lives, about what the maze means, etc. And Thomas allows himself to wonder just how close he and Teresa had been. The readers wonder too.
Then in The Scorch Trials, Teresa seemingly does a personality switch. We find out later why and it’s all sort of weird and shady, but in the meantime Thomas meets Brenda. She’s nice enough, but a little too eager to come onto Thomas in my opinion. I was still holding out hope that Teresa’s weirdness would turn around and we would get the real her again.
In The Death Cure, when Thomas finally gets around the forgiving Teresa, she makes a choice, sacrificing herself to save others. I was absolutely crushed when I read this, realizing exactly what it would mean. Sure enough, when Thomas, Brenda, and the others are safe in their little preserved habitat, she’s basically like, “Hey, we get to procreate this place.” *wink*nudge*. Seriously?! Teresa just died! Is there no sympathy?! So now we know Teresa was the better person, and she’s dead, but oh well. Life goes on. Uh, no. You cannot treat Teresa that way James Dashner, YOU CANNOT.
Back to Exhibit B: Matched
The beginning of Matched swept me off my feet with the swoon-worthiness of Xander and Cassia, best friends from childhood, being matched as life partners. Yes, it was done by the government, which is stupid, but I loved the two of them together. I could not help it. They could still fight the government together. Right, right?!
Enter Ky Markham, home-wrecker. He’s a nice enough guy, mysterious and whatnot, but seriously, he’s no Xander. Cassia’s captivated by him because he represents something different. That doesn’t mean he’s the right guy for her!
An Interjection About Psychology
Valentine’s Day 2008 I walked into one of my psychology classes in college and the professor lectured us that day on why love does not exist. It was all in good fun, but something he said did make a lot of sense. That often times, people claim to be in love after they have gone through something dangerous or high intensity together. What happened scientifically, of course, was that their adrenaline went up during this circumstance, and because of a person’s association of that adrenaline with the other person, whenever they see that person, their adrenaline spikes again, and they take it to be love.
Notice what some of these people in these stories went through together: Thomas and Brenda had to run for their lives away from crazy zombie-like people. Cassia and Ky committed many little rebellious acts together that made Cassia crave for more. Katniss and Peeta went through the freaking Hunger Games together… twice! But with Katniss and Peeta, they are able to help each other through these shared trials. They are the only ones who can truly understand each other. And they have also developed a true companionship and devotion for one another over time, and that’s what I love about their relationship.
Ky doesn’t even want to be a part of the Rising that Cassia does. Xander does. We learn in Reached that the Rising isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, but Ky doesn’t even try to explain why to Cassia. And oddly she doesn’t seem to care that they don’t have this in common. If my boyfriend wasn’t jumping on an important bandwagon with me, I’d want to have a conversation as to WHY. (Apparently it’s good enough that the poetry she finds sings to her soul and reminds her of Ky… BLEH… barf bag please!)
How The Love Triangle Ends
Let’s face it though, these love triangles can be quite subjective, otherwise there wouldn’t be teams. Sometimes the writers make both guys (or gals) kind of appealing and split the readers. I think I could deal with being on a losing team better, however, if the triangles did not end so badly.
Gale randomly leaves for District 2.
Xander suddenly falls for another girl.
Teresa just flat out DIES.
Can’t we make these love triangles end just a little better? Maybe a more mutual parting of ways?
How To Cope
I’m no expert in coping mechanisms, but here are a few ways we cam all try:
– Rant about the lousy love triangle in a review; maybe someone will sympathize.
– Head canon. Just change it all in your head.
– Denial. These books do not exist…
That’s all I have for now. Let me know if you have more!
Love triangles are fragile things, and they can be quite difficult to deal with. Both authors and readers should handle with care. Just be warned, the new guy/gal who shows up offering up something new and exciting is most likely to get picked, so if you don’t like them as much as guy/gal #1, you might not want to continue.
What do you think? How do you cope when you’re on the losing team? What losing teams have you been on?