Chatterbox: Are Love Triangles Becoming More Tolerable?

November 21, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Books, Chatterbox, Features

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Ah, the fated love triangle. One of the most hated plot devices in YA fiction. Usually the heroine gets her pick of the crop and it’s usually the best friend who secretly harbours feelings for her that gets left behind in favour of Mr new, hot and exciting. If I had a coin for people mentioning the hated love triangles, I’d probably be rich by now.

But I’m beginning to see a trend in YA fiction. I’ve encountered a few books now, even with a love triangle, where I’m like “hey that actually wasn’t that bad.” Have authors caught on what makes us like and dislike love triangles? Are we actually beginning to tolerate them now, because they seem to be more convincing or better written, not just a convenient plot device?

supernaturalnotbad

Take Throne of Glass for example. I don’t think anyone could argue that we hated the love triangle in that one, because both Dorian and Chaol were such well written, strong and well suited male characters for Celaena. They care for her in different ways, and they both were attracted to her for different reasons. In fact, they were so well written that throughout the first book, I just didn’t know who to go for. This does become clearer in Crown of Midnight, but you could still argue against the front runner.

So what makes a love triangle tolerable?

  • If two males aren’t put in just for the sake of making the heroine pick between them, and are well written characters that actually have a reason to be there, then we can accept love triangles more readily.
  • Having a clear front runner with character traits that complement the heroine more usually helps too. Although the second guy might be as desirable as the first, we know that he isn’t the best guy for her for one reason or another.
  • Not making any of the males whiny and jealous and possessive helps a lot too, if they can just understand and be proud that someone else finds the heroine as desirable as they do. Of course the best friend likes her, she’s amazing!

stayaway

  • Giving the other male another love interest other than the heroine usually makes things easier for her (and for us) to choose.
  • Having the heroine actually choose someone without dragging it out. There’s nothing more annoying than an indecisive heroine that selfishly strings along both males because she can’t decide.

elena

Love triangles that follow the formula above are usually more tolerable for me, and I’m really glad to see the days of the annoying relationship between Edward, Jacob and Bella come to an end or at least a halt in YA fiction.

Have your feelings about love triangles changed recently?

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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63 responses to “Chatterbox: Are Love Triangles Becoming More Tolerable?

  1. Bec

    Authors are definitely starting to write better love triangles now. It's certainly making them more bearable. The thing I hated most about them were the guys who only existed for the triangle and that usually the heroine couldn't decide one way or the other. I often didn't like one or both of the love interests either.

    Throne of Glass is a good love triangle, but I don't know if I still consider it a love triangle due to events of the second and third books. I also like the Infernal Devices love triangle because I was attached to all three of the characters. I hope more decent triangles keep coming our way (and hopefully none that are completely unnecessary and annoying!)

    • I think so Bec, I hated those stock standard love triangles where the 'other' guy would just exist to push the heroine towards the new guy you know? It was so lame, but it seems like love triangles are better now. I've heard a lot about the Infernal Devices actually being decent that way which is surprising!
      My recent post Blog Tour, Giveaway & Review: Slip by David Estes

  2. I agree, Jeann, I have noticed lately, too that there is a change in how love triangles work. I used to totally loathe triangles with a passion, and it was almost sure to make me take off a star if there was a badly done triangle.
    Now, though, with some stories where the characters make sense (they're not just a stock character to make one character jealous, while making the heroine also look a little bit like a bitch), and where it's possible for me to see the attraction in both of them it changes everything.
    I'm actually even going to write my MA thesis on love triangles in dystopias… so yeah, my tune has changed, for sure.
    My recent post Review: Coming for You – J.A. Huss

    • I'm so glad to hear that some people are feeling the same sentiments as me Lexxie, when it comes to love triangles! That would definitely be an interesting thesis Lexxie.

  3. readerswonderland

    I've always kind of been a fan of love triangles xD Granted, there are some unbearable ones but I too have noticed more successful ones popping up. Why not have double the romance? 😉

    Definitely, definitely agree with your reasons for tolerable love triangles. For me, as long as there isn't TOO much angst and drama, I'm good.

    And then Heir of Fire popped up and confused everyone again ;D At least me, I still don't know who to ship, I absolutely love every character!

    Love the gifs 😀
    My recent post Review: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa + The Iron Traitor Audio Excerpt

    • Hehe sounds like a guilty pleasure Alise 😉 I don't know about doubling the romance, but I know sometimes they don't annoy me as much. Oh my gosh how good is Heir of Fire, I just didn't know how an interrupted ship could have went but it actually wasn't too bad!

  4. Joy

    I never had an issue with love triangles. I'm more concerned with the characters, especially with the heroine (if this is a one girl – two guys triangle). Like what you said, she has to be able to choose someone as quickly as possible. I recently read A Thousand Pieces of You and I love that the love triangle in it is so clear-cut. It was obvious who the main character was gonna end up with, and she did not drag it out. Also with The Mortal Instruments — I appreciate that the Simon-Clary-Jace triangle did not last very long. The triangle I hated most was the one in Jenny Han's Summer trilogy. I wanted to throw my phone because of Belly's constant whining and indecisiveness.

    • I know, I honestly don't care who she chooses because usually cliche love triangles are going to have a front runner who is better for her anyway! I did really enjoy A Thousand Pieces of You – love triangle and all. TMI love triangle did annoy me because I didn't like Jace hahaha. Thanks for the warning about the Summer trilogy!

  5. I have to admit, I DESPISE it when the other love interest gets a love interest of their own that isn't the main character. I find that it kind of just undermines the fact that the character had at any point had feelings for the M.C. .-.

    But I think you make a good point. For me, if there is a clear front runner, I will always be a bit more tolerable of love triangles. So while I'll be really disappointed that there is one, I won't be raging because a clear front runner means that my mind can be put at ease since I know the end game.

    Personally, I think a lot of this has to be with an increased tolerance rather than the authors figuring it out although I hope some day, they will realize that love triangles are not what a good chunk of the readers want 😛

    Fantastic post, Jeann <3

  6. I agree that when not used as a plot device, love triangles aren't so bad. But there has to be a lot more going on in the books to make it not the focal point.

  7. Hahah I totally understand! I actually do like love triangles, only because of the reasons above. But if they're there just to be there, then it's just, eh, because the characters probably aren't meshed out, or developed, and it just sucks. So yeah, good thing authors are finally taking notice, right?

    • Yeah, I wouldn't come out and say I actually like them, but I'm beginning not to mind them you know? Haha I think generally characters that aren't developed well, including romances and love interests is generally meh. I'm glad there's been a shift lately!

    • I like the realism angle, definitely. Seriously how often do you get two extremely handsome and capable males pining over an indecisive girl? Oh well.

  8. i was never vehemently against love triangles because these things do happen in real life, but it really depends on HOW it was done. i really like the example of ToG!! i can see why celeana is attracted to both guys, and i see her reason for falling in love with Chaol… but the Nehemia thing happened and they grew apart. at the same time, she found magic in common with dorian and i think their feelings will blossom from there. it all makes sense to me, so i'm fine with that!

    however, i hate it when the main character is indecisive and leaves BOTH guys hanging. or when he/she has made a choice in her mind already yet did not tell the other party… that's a terrible thing to do.

    i really agree with what you've summarized in this post– when certain conditions are met, YES, love triangles don't have to be that absolute evil!
    My recent post even blizzards start with snowflakes ❄ snow like ashes by sara raasch

    • Yeah, I just love how well done Throne of Glass series is when it comes to romance and development of Celaena, PLUS Dorian and Chaol as characters, it all seems to ebb and flow naturally you know? Agh, the indecisiveness is what gets me. I just can't get through Vampire Diaries anymore and I have no regrets, because of Elena flitting between the two guys.

  9. Ebony

    Yes, yes, yes. I definitely agree with everything you've said here. While I was younger, I never HATED love triangles, but it did begin to feel as though I was reading the same story over and over. While love triangles are definitely becoming more tolerable and enjoyable, it's always refreshing to read a book where there's only one love interest.
    My recent post What’s Your Opinion on Weekly Recaps?

    • I definitely agree with your last sentence, I would much prefer a well developed romance where there is one love interest rather than another guy pushing her towards the preferred one.

  10. Hmm…this is definitely an interesting discussion question Jeann! I've noticed the same thing recently – that one or two of the books I've read recently have had a love triangle that (*gasp*) I actually didn't mind (Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raash). I think it helps if both love interests are clearly well-developed and each have their own motives for liking the main character. Thanks for sharing, and fabulous discussion question! <3
    My recent post The Young Elites

    • Thank you Zoe, I know, I can't believe I am starting not to mind love triangles! I'm glad it's not just me hehe. No problems lovely, I'll have to read Snow Like ashes and see what I think.

  11. rotanrm

    I have a love hate relationship with love triangle. i like love triangles especially growing up with archie comics i have witness all sort of archie/betty/veronica love triangles scenarios though in a comic it is more amusing than in YA.

    Nowadays find them getting more repetitive like there is a formula to a triangle and its kinda predictable on how it ends. If they are well written and not throned in for the sake of the story or conflict than I'll enjoy it.

    Also i agree i hate hate HATE with a pure passion of clingy, possessive, whiny characters! ugh!! my biggest pet peeve on books is if the character is anything along those lines it makes me cringe! Great post!
    My recent post Book Review: Pandora Jones: Admission (Pandora Jones #1) by Barry Jonsberg

    • The predictable formula where it is just thrown in is really annoying because it feels like they are all the same you know? And yes, we don't like clingy, possessive and whiny characters, they are the worst. Thank you!

  12. I have read a few books recently were the love triangles didn't bother me as much as they used and they actually fit in the book. I just finished True Calling and while there is a love triangle, it also isn't completely one and it all makes sense. Also the boys aren't all alpha males and fighting about the girl. And I just hate it when love triangles are geting dragged out, I am glad we're seeing better love triangles recently!
    My recent post Lola’s Ramblings: Favourite and not so favourite genres

    • Oh gosh, the draggy ones are the most annoying, especially when the heroine just can't decide between either. It gets to a point where it's like, we don't care who you're going to pick just get it over with! Glad to hear True Calling has better males as well. Thanks for the comment lovely!

    • I know, I'm totally a Chaolena shipper as well <3 I'm so glad these days the triangles are better developed, or even better sometimes when there's another male it doesn't turn into a love triangle or potential romance. It's just a lot better you know?

  13. To be honest, I never really hated love triangles as much as everyone else did but I have to admit that some can be hella annoying. I completely agree that they're becoming more tolerable though. I'm really glad authors are taking on all the criticisms and making them so much better! 😀

    • Yeah, I'm actually quite surprised with how passionate we all are about love triangles lol! If they can't get rid of them at least the authors can make them more tolerable, I guess.

  14. ha ha ha ha ha ha *wipes tear* oh the old days of the twilight craze! Yes yes I was in that fandom.
    But when I look back oh my GOSH the love triangle was so painful and tedious and OVER DRAMATIC CAN'T-LIVE-CAn't_BREATH-MUST-CHOOSE-like.
    But I do enjoy those sorts of love triangles that are mentioned above but also 'triangles' in a way where there's not just another person. I like the family issues involved or the distance or interests or whatever that's not just those conveniently placed characters.
    But I think it also helps that publishers look at reviews and such and know about the sorts of things that readers like so they can suggest things to authors during editing and such so I guess you're doing a good job as a reviewer and all the reviewers out there!
    Thanks for sharing this post!
    My recent post divergent-life:

    &quot;Sometimes, if you want the truth, you have to…

    • Hahaha oh dear, good old Twilight craze. It went really over the top which was all fun I guess. I love how you mentioned the different interpretation of a love triangle, something detracting from the romance alone is definitely a book that I like to read as well. No problems Renee, thanks for commenting!

    • Yeah, those ones are the ones that turn me off the most, almost as much as the possessive and aggressive love interests. Love triangles can get pretty annoying, although I've noticed a change in my reactions to them hehe. Thank you!

  15. I remember when I first discovered Love Triangles I used to LOVE them but when they started to become too popular, my like for them decreased. It really depends on the author, the story and the characters. It's funny how so many factors come into play to make a good story! You're so right, the male characters have to actually have a reason to be there! Possessiveness can be a really unattractive trait and I hate it when they take it too far. But you're definitely right, love triangles are improving. You never know, authors may be taking a look at bloggers and actually taking our advice 😉

    • Yeah, I gotta admit when I was reading Twilight it wasn't so bad but when every YA author decided to make a love triangle, it got annoying really fast. YES I can't stand the possessiveness and jealousy when it comes to male characters, definitely a turn off. Glad to hear that you agree Francoise!

  16. No, not exactly, but that's just for me personally; I honestly am reading a lot of books with absolutely HORRIBLE love triangles lately, so I'm actually starting to hate them more. But I think that if a love triangle matches your list, than I would find them a lot less exasperating. My friend, who absolutely detests love triangles, loves the Throne of Glass series, so that must mean that love triangle is acceptable. 🙂
    My recent post Review: Darkness by Elizabeth Arroyo

    • Oh I know, after reading tonnes of love triangle books last year it nearly put me off reading YA in general. But luckily this year seems to be better, or maybe we've just wised up as readers to be able to pick out what books will trigger us lol. Throne of Glass is awesome!

  17. You made valid points but I still prefer my book without it. I get crush triangles, I think that's how the Celaena-Dorian-Chaol triangle started but I don't think it really progressed to love. Celaena made a choice long before it got complicated and I think Dorian & Chaol's friendship watered Dorian's interest in Celaena.

    But I digress, I think authors have heard our complaints so they've tapered it somewhat but there's still a few that falls thru the cracks. I hate it simply because it makes the heroine look weak and slutty and nobody really likes a slutty heroine.
    My recent post Disliked It: Illusion by J.S. Cooper

    • Yeah, it all comes down to how you define love triangles – I can definitely see how Throne of Glass is like *potentially* there but never fully evolves into love which is good. HAHAHA Slutty heroine 😉

  18. Great points, there are definitely love-triangles out there that work for me, like the one you mentioned in TOG. I guess it's because the love-triangle doesn't take over the plot, but it's just part of the story. And I also understand her conflicted feelings, because she has a special bond with all of them.

  19. "Having a clear front runner with character traits that complement the heroine more usually helps too. Although the second guy might be as desirable as the first, we know that he isn’t the best guy for her for one reason or another." this usually saves it for me but dude if there's a love interest switch–that's just NO NO NO NO NO NO. I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS. I love a girl who chooses the guy or a guy who chooses the girl not on the last page, but way earlier. It's annoying to have to go back and forth even if you know who they're going to choose. Tbh, I do disike most triangles, but there are some that don't annoy me and some that I actually like? Though that's a very rare case scenario.
    My recent post Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

    • Yeah, if there's a love interest switch it just makes you think, why was he interested in the girl in the first place? I guess the author had written it in such a way that the only way he was going to not be interested in her was to switch to someone else lol. I don't know about liking a love triangle, but I know that sometimes they don't annoy me as much and I find them tolerable.

  20. I agree with all your points here, haha. It's so obvious when triangles are just there to spice up the plot in a lot of books, are when either love choice just doesn't really work for reasons. I loved Dorian and Chaol for so many reasons, I didn't really truly pick a "side" really until what we got in CoF. Also, that triangle isn't even the main focus of the series. Making it the big focus rather than the actual plot can sway my opinion as well.
    My recent post Do you find one more important than the other?

    • Oh I know, it's like when they have nothing else to write about, let's chuck in a love triangle for a bit of drama! I like it when it's not the main focus as well and it's just an offshoot to the main plot.

  21. inlibrisveritas

    I honestly hate that 'love triangles' have even become a common thing now. I wasn't fond of them when they first started appearing in mass numbers, though I will admit some of them are really well done and make the book better…but anymore it seems rare to pick up a book and see that there is only one love interest. They have certainly become more tolerable though. That's the one good thing about it continuing to be a normal addition, people can jump right to what works instead of having to experiment in untested waters. If the main character can't decide which guy/girl to go for and there doesn't seem to be a clue as to which way they'll go I usually get really irritated. But that being said I no longer want to scream everytime I see one, so I am getting use to them lol!
    My recent post Art Up (6): Weasley is Our King

    • It definitely is rare to only see one love interest, and to have it developed well without insta-love…why is that? I suppose it's just standard fare and easier to add in an additional love interest to complicate things and create conflict and drama, but yeah, I definitely prefer it without. Haha we are definitely getting used to them I think!

  22. LilysBookBlog

    I am not a fan of love triangles but i'm also the type of reader to argue whether or not a love triangle is really a love triangle. Take The Infernal Devices for example, that's series had a spectacular love triangle. There was always a clear choice for me in the series as to who the heroine needed to end up with me but that love triangle was so unique because the three of them loved one another. They cared about one another. It wasn't about a girl flip flopping between two guys. She developed feelings for each separately because of REASONS so I understood. That one was a love triangle.

    Now, take The Hunger Games. I never saw it as a love triangle. I never really thought Katniss loved Gale. I always just saw it as Katniss falling in love with Peeta and her coming to terms with the fact that Gale might just only be a friend. I think in the back of her mind she saw him as her equal so assumed he'd be the one she ended up with and I think one of the underlying themes in the book is just her coming to terms with the fact that sometimes the people we believe are the ones to end up with us just aren't. I don't think she ever loved him. There was never a love triangle with them. She was just trying to come to terms with the fact that she would never consider him a great love.
    NOW, take Throne of Glass. Oh boy. THIS ONE. So many feels. Okay so ToG seems like a love triangle. You could even argue that when that one ends you totally don't know who Celeana would choose but in my opinion (which many people have agreed with once I've told them) is that once you read CoM it becomes obvious this whole series is quite possibly one couples love story (and a bunch of other political/ fantasy things of course) and I don't consider it a "love triangle" either because once you recognize how deep one ships feelings are you realize the other one just couldn't compare and it wasn't a love but an infatuation. A distraction.
    My recent post The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1: Movie Review

    • I haven't read the Infernal Devices, but I like how it sounds like both of the love interests are well developed and they all care for one another. That definitely sounds complex, and adds a deeper angle into the love triangle.

      For me, I define love triangles as if there's another potential love interest, that may or may not be explored in one way or another. At any one time they may have feelings for the heroine. I totally agree with The Hunger Games though, although it's up to how we see love triangles, I think Katniss was a character who needed justice first, and then love second, and she just didn't have room to offer that to both Gale and then Peeta.

      Oh my gosh, Throne of Glass is just insane with the relationships and complexities it explores between Celaena, Dorian and Chaol (and later Sam, Rowan, Aedion, etc.)! It does become obvious who the right choice for her is, but for a while there it kept us guessing. But even then, as the series progresses, there are so many different types of loves for Celaena. As a sister, as a childhood friend, as a colleague, as an equal, as a mystery. I just love it so much!

  23. Okay, my first instinct was to not even bother reading this and just commenting like: LOL NO JEANN SHHHH. But I love you too much for that 😉

    Really though, love triangles still have me running for the hills. I just can't, man. THEY'RE MY KRYPTONITE.

    With ToG, I'd argue it's not reaaaaally I love triangle, because she never flitters between the boys. She has one and then moves on to the other, and though there is some clear flirting in the first book with her and Chaol, nothing ever happens until book two. So IDK, it's a semi-triangle? It's tolerable to me, because she moved on from Dorian and wasn't debating who she liked best all the time

    • Awww thanks for actually reading it Allie lol. I know how much we all hate love triangles, but for me my feelings have changed on them. I guess I look at love triangles as being just having two potential males that she can like, and they have feelings for each other sometime during the book. It all depends on your pov I guess!

  24. Lisa @ Lost in Lit

    I honestly don't mind love triangles, and I never really did. I know I was extremely in the minority originally, but I feel like others are agreeing with me more slowly. Sometimes, if it's done really well, it can definitely add quite a bit to the story. Insta-love is still my most annoying pet peeve that I'm usually unable to ignore, and thus I end up DNF'ing the book. But love triangles and I seem to get along just fine. 🙂
    My recent post Blog Tour: One Wish Away by Kelley Lynn

    • Oh gosh, I hate insta-love even more than love triangles I think. I do think if it's done well then I don't mind it as much. Although I still prefer single romances 🙂

  25. Neverrrrrrrr!!! sorry. I just…No. I hate this trope. I wish it would die a thousand deaths already. Seriously. More like, you're becoming desensitized to the idea because it's so rampant in YA. I can no longer read a YA book that doesn't have this stupid geometrical romance. No.'

    It makes me very angry. >.<

  26. You took the words straight out of my mouth, Jeann! You're so right, there has been a shift. We are getting much more well thought out, genuinely developed love triangles. And I don't know if I love it or I hate it. Take Snow Like Ashes for example (which Jeann, you should totally read!! <3). We get two male leads but they're such decent, all-round blokes who are genuine and who understand the concept of equality. There's nothing to hate. They're both brilliant characters. And for once, I actually found myself enjoying a love triangle (oh the horror!) Fantastic discussion! <3
    My recent post The Starbound Trilogy #2: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

    • Thank you lovely, I'm glad someone else can see the same hehe. I haven't read Snow Like Ashes but I'm really curious because a few people have brought it up as a tolerable love triangle, and I like how both male leads are decent.

  27. saaratis

    I still hate love triangle. I been hearing so many good things about the Throne of Glass series and I want to read it. I really do, but the love triangle is the reason I keep putting it off. I just don't understand the need to flit from guy to the other.

  28. I still highly dislike love triangles but as you said, some are done in a better way than others and aren't as annoying. The ones that work better for me are those that each guy compliments one part of the heroine and bring out different things to the table… As you said, I could never complain about Throne of Glass having a love triangle!!
    Still, I'd prefer my books triangle free!
    My recent post Friday Reads: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater!!!

    • I love what you said about guys complimenting each part of the heroine, that makes it a lot more convincing doesn't it?