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We♥LuvΔ Week: Why We Love (and Love to Hate On) Love Triangles in YA Lit

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If you follow PLL’s Tumblr and Twitter, you know that this week is We♥LuvΔ Week, where we are celebrating the art of a well-crafted love triangle, like the one in Fiona Paul’s Belladonna of the Secrets of the Eternal Rose Series! But love triangles are a controversial topic in YA Fiction, so we figured we’d get the opinions of some other YA writers and figure out what the right equation is for an effective and compelling romance!

Gayle Forman, author of Just One Day:

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Gayle isn’t the only one with this opinion! The notion that love triangles are unrealistic and don’t have any relevance to the lives of the teenagers reading them is totally valid: because really isn’t most of adolescence spent just wanting that ONE guy or girl to notice you…and then dealing with the repercussions if they do or don’t?

Gayle also raises two very good points, that most love triangles are geared towards female readers…wouldn’t we judge a novel where a guy is torn between two girls on a much harsher scale? I think so! She also says that because they don’t happen in real life and she writes realistic fiction, she doesn’t write them…which means maybe different rules apply for paranormal or historical fiction. Belladonna is both paranormal and historical, and we love it because teenage girls during the Italian Renaissance were either already married, betrothed, or being courted by multiple suitors…so the historical background actually makes a love triangle MORE realistic (though it was unlikely that the girl herself would have any say in the matter at the time).

Let’s get a man’s opinion on the subject! Enter Daniel Kraus, author of Trollhunters:

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While not about love triangles exactly, Daniel touches on that common criticism about the unrealistic nature of love in YA romance novels. He’s right: in most YA books (especially those with a “hero”, so think of the juggernauts: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and even Twilight) there is a happy ending, at least romantically, for the main character. (For example: At the end of Mockingjay, it is revealed that Katniss still has nightmares about the Games, and is probably suffering from PTSD…but she and Peeta are together.) Daniel is right: heroism is usually repaid with, unfortunately, death in the real world.

Even in Harry Potter, no main couple was broken up by the war against Lord Voldemort. In Twilight, Stephanie Meyer solves the love triangle problem by (problematically, according to many) having Jacob imprint on Bella and Edward’s daughter, making her his soulmate. Like Daniel says, in paranormal worlds the rules are bended…but many authors (like Stephanie Meyer herself) admit to writing a love triangle to elongate a series and make it more commercial (aka sell more copies). Remember: Jacob wasn’t even supposed to be a main character, and there were only supposed to be 2 books, not 4 books and 5 movies! Furthermore, sometimes fans complain when a love triangle DOESN’T work out as intended- and recent popular YA releases have shown that to not abide by the fans’ expectations can lead to some riotous disappointment.

So why do love triangles demand that love conquers all if that’s not the way it works in real life? Well, the answer is pretty simple, and at it’s core, is the reason we at PLL believe in love triangles: because we WANT love to conquer all!

Not every book has to be realistic, but not everyone reads a book for a real-life, relatable experience. Sometimes we read BECAUSE it isn’t real life: because in reality having two guys fight over you would be kind of annoying and childish, but in book-world, it’s fascinating, compelling and exciting to have the possibility of a choice. Or better yet, the idea that True Love (with Capital Letters) can override the ILLUSION of a choice…so in the end, Character A and Character B are MEANT TO BE all along, despite the obstacle of Character C that was in their way.

So finally, we give you Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series:

“To me, a love triangle done right isn’t about a female character’s affections bouncing back and forth between two men, it’s about her internal struggle within herself as she figures out who she wants to be and what’s important to her.  This internal struggle then gets reflected externally as she wars within herself and grows.  And that’s the heart of any book — a character’s growth from first page to the last.  Generally, even as a character grows and changes she backslides (what sometimes looks like a flip-flop in affections) and sometimes a character will cling to their old way of being even as the struggle to adopt a new way.”

Maybe she’s right, and a love triangle really isn’t about the love at all! Maybe it’s about the character using the different people in their life to guide them towards their ultimate journey. Either way, it looks like love triangles are here to stay, so perhaps the key is learning how to write them the RIGHT way!

If you’re interested in what real teens have to say about love triangles, check out http://www.paperlanternlit.tumblr.com all week to read about the PLL Trendsetter’s favorite love triangles and how they envision the future of the love triangle industry! Also make sure to check out Fiona Paul’s Belladonna and see why We♥LuvΔ’s!

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