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?
I love this!
I am on the losing team every time. And when I say every time, I mean EVERY TIME. (Oh, except for Peeta, but for me, Gale was never in the competition).
I didn’t read your Matched and Maze Runner exhibits, because I am yet to read those books, but I will say that I believe that the main character in novels often chooses the boy they fall in love with first. And, almost always, I pick the boy they fall in love with second. It’s frustrating, and if the character doesn’t choose my ‘team’, I get a little sad. I’ll still like the book, or series, but I won’t adore it. Because it didn’t give me what I wanted, damn it! Haha. 🙂
I don’t know how to comment on this without being spoilery on Matched and The Maze Runner, but that is an interesting assessment about the first boy/second boy. It’s good that you can enjoy the books even when you’re on the losing team!
And I agree with you about Gale!
Well it seems to be the trend with the YA books I’m reading. Which is kinda sad, since my boy always ends up loveless, and sad.
Yes! I don’t know how people can be Team Gale. I just. No.
I always think of Twilight when I think of triangles. It seems like that series was the one that really sparked the trend (although I’m sure there are many examples in past books, it seemed every YA book that came out in the couple of years after Twilight’s success HAD to have a triangle–especially paranormal books). And like you mentioned it sparked the whole “Team” phenomenon, complete with t-shirts.
I love the HG and definitely think Peeta was the right one for her, but I don’t really think about that series in terms of its romance. I only read the first book in the Matched series, but thought it was a total snooze-fest and have no plans to continue it. It doesn’t at all surprise me that she ends up with Ky.
As far as triangles go, I think they are over-used and often cliche, but a good writer is a good writer and so I’ll usually buy the elements of the story they are trying to sell.
I liked your thoughts as an aspiring writer and how sometimes a third character will show up unbidden (Kayne style-lol).
Great post! I always really appreciate your thoughts. I’ll definitely read what you eventually publish!
You’re right that Twilight started it all. It doesn’t always jump to mind for me since some of the hype has died and I never got into the series anyway.
I really enjoyed Matched but I know a lot of people who feel the same as you, and I thought the second book Crossed was pretty slow and dull at times.
And thanks! I think blogging now is helping me with what to include and what not to include in my stories, so hopefully you’d like whatever I publish!
Loved this post! The “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!” made me laugh out loud! I agree, I’ve often thought “How come Love Interest #1 can’t catch a break?!” I guess because if the MC was really in love with Love Interest #1, she wouldn’t have fallen for Love Interest #2 so hard? Still, it would be nice to see Love Interest #1 win. I also thought that the psychology aspect of your post was really, really interesting and made a great point. 🙂 Fantastic post!
Alice @ Alice in Readerland
I think your theory has a lot of truth to it, but can’t person #2 just be a slight distraction instead of always the victor? Glad you enjoyed my Kayne reference and post overall! 🙂
I had to skim part of this because I haven’t read Matched or The Maze Runner and didn’t want to get spoilered (especially because I own The Maze Runner and will be reading it sometime soon, and want to decide the love triangle on my own)! I always am on the losing team. I tend to go for the one who isn’t a prick, which I guess isn’t a good idea when it’s the bad boy vs good guy love triangle. I think part of me always realizes who the MC will end up with, and being the underdog person I am I always want to root for the other guy and somehow hope that my rooting will change things… but it never really does. Boo.
In my two main examples I don’t feel like one is bad and one is good, but there is the person who is “safe” and then the one who offers more excitement. FYI, The Maze Runner love triangle actually is not introduced until the second book, just so you aren’t looking for it in the first book! 🙂
Haha thanks. I do think that’s another popular thing with love triangles – introducing the next person in book two (or having them become part of the triangle during book two)!
I generally think of Twilight first when people talk about love triangles, because it’s the first book I ever read that contained one. Obviously, once I started reading more YA, I noticed that this was actually a trend and there were a ton of them to go around. I also couldn’t believe how Dasher handled the ending of the love triangle. “Oh, I don’t want Thomas to end up with Teresa, so I get I’ll just crush her under this convenient rock/rubble thing.” And Thomas didn’t even seem sad!
I’ve read both Matched and Crossed, but honestly I strongly disliked them both. I felt like Matched was very slow-paced, but it had nothing on its sequel, a book in which very little happens at all. I couldn’t get emotionally attached to any of the characters. Still, I did prefer Xander over Ky, simply because he seemed to have more a personality. I might read Reached at some point (maybe), but I’m not looking forward to that triangle wrap-up.
I think I just get too involved in the love triangle, so if I end up on the losing team, I am just crushed. I’d name a few that are examples of this, but I don’t want to accidentally spoil you. I preferred Gale over Peeta in The Hunger Games as a person, but I cannot deny that Peeta was better for Katniss. I don’t think I’ve ever really felt that way before. Anyways, I’ve rambled on enough, excellent post!
Seriously, James Dashner! What the heck? And like you said, Thomas doesn’t even seem to really care!
Crossed is definitely waaaaaay slow. Reached had a lot of potential in the beginning, but ended just very “meh.” It was a little slugish in the middle too. I think the trilogy could have been one book.
Glad you enjoyed the post and I appreciate your comment!
My favourite part of this is the How to Cope section. Headcanon makes me so sad because I keep thinking about how happy their lives could have been together, but then I’m reminded that they’re NOT together, and then I’m reminded that this is all fictional, these are characters and were never real, and then I just get REALLY depressed. Usually Denial is my go-to. I’ll just forget that scene every happened, wah wah wah.
Ha ha, denial works best for me too. I do it with movie sequels or TV episodes I don’t like too, like nope… never happened!
That was me watching the last episode of Merlin. OMG.
I love your post so much, thank you for being part of our event!!
I know exactly what you mean about the writing process and how love triangles kind of magically pop up… it’s SO remarkably easy for this to happen. In fact, it’s harder to steer yourself away from love triangles while writing than it is to just let them unfold. So I do get that. (We should be writing buddies?? I’ll cheer you on — I have the same problem with stopping when I get stuck!) I also agree with what you said about the Hunger Games effect. So many successful YA books have a love triangle in them, it stands to reason that others would copy that for similar results.
As for being on the losing team, this has happened to me several times. It’s SUCH a downer. It’s more bearable I suppose when I can see clearly why the hero/heroine really is better with the person who won, but it doesn’t change how lame it is. And I kind of really loathe when they end up with Corner C because Corner B got killed off in Book 2 or something. UGGGGHHH.
I could probably use a writing cheerleader! I also have severe Writing ADD, where I can’t focus on one story, and just hop from one to another. It’s ridiculous.
I agree, being on the losing team is not fun, and it’s especially lame when your person dies!
Oh no, there’s a love triangle I’m reading that I really don’t think 2nd guy will be the one, but now I’m not so sure… Loved reading this post – I was really intrigued by the whole adrenaline thing for love too, it makes sense and is somewhat depressing. 🙂 At least now I know not to fall in love too quickly in a perilous situations!
Chiara (Books for a Delicate Eternity) said she finds that they usually choose the first person, but from my experience it seems to be the second, so who knows how it will work out!
Ha ha, I’m glad my little psychology tidbit could help you out!
Uh, oh, I’m always on the losing team! For some reason, I always take the side of the guy/girl who is less likely to get the girl/guy. And I always end up disappointed, which is why I have such an intense hate for love-triangles. When they’re well done (which is not often) and I actually like all three and I feel anxious to know what happens with their story, it’s… find, I guess. It’s not only that I can’t stand the indecisiveness of a girl/guy who can’t chose between two people (I’m pretty indecisive myself, but in these situations, it makes me angry), I just always pick the one who is going to either die horribly or be tossed aside for the “one who suits him/her better”.
I really do hate when characters are so indecisive, though people are often indecisive in real life, myself included. But it’s so upsetting when it just ends badly for the losing team.
Lol at the archery bit! I personally never get tired of books with archery in them. 😀
Unfortunately I skipped or glossed over the middle part of your post, since I avoid spoilers at all costs. I really enjoyed the beginning and end, though!
I haven’t read too many books with love triangles in them but I feel like I’m on the losing team more often than not myself. It’s so frustrating for the MCs to not have taste as good as I do! Haha. I pretty much cope by yelling at the book and taking a break from it to go read something else, until I’m fiending to see what happens next and pick it up again. I must like the emotional abuse these authors give me, putting in the perfect guy for that girl or vice versa and seeing their relationship get ripped to shreds.
Ha ha, no, there certainly isn’t anything wrong with archery! Thankfully I haven’t read too many love triangle books either, but they are definitely frustrating!
Great post!! I think as a reader I am not fooled. I can tell when a love triangle is added to just spice up the story and not actually needed in the story. These relationships are all over young adult books. Do authors just think everyone in high school did this? Oh and the death love triangles are so convenient!
Angela’s Anxious Life
Yeah, did all these authors experience such drama? Probably not. I had two guys like me at once before, but it wasn’t like this drawn-out who will I choose drama thing. I knew if I liked a guy or not.
This is such an awesome post and this made me LOL “Denial. These books do not exist…”..I tend to be on the losing side of the love triangle..exception being Katniss and Peeta whom I love together (hated Gale)..I hadn’t noticed the the second character introduced is often the one the character falls for!
That’s right, at least Suzanne Collins did us right! 🙂