In Defence of the Love Triangle

In defense of the love triangle in young-adult fiction.In a recent, popular book newsletter, I saw an article ditching some regular features of YA lit, one of them being the love triangle.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a mushy, wind-swept snog-fest that tries to make up for a poor plot and bland characters should be tossed overboard. And quickly. Those who’ve survived the teen, hormonal-fuelled hurricane are not particularly interested in being dragged back into the fury of the storm; those in the middle of the tempest cannot wait for safe harbour.

Does she, or doesn’t she? He loves me, he loves me not?

In small doses, this thundershower of emotional upheaval shines the flashlight on the turbulent realities that we face during this coming-of-age time of life. Ploughing through page after page after page of relational squall, ad nauseam? Who wants to end up seasick?! Shipwrecked?

In Defence of the Love Triangle

However, a young-adult fiction novel without the quandary of relationships is like a superhero without superpowers, a mystery book without intrigue, a thriller without the thrill. Unless your young protagonist is an android, or you’ve abandoned him on a distant planet with only a football for company, he’s going to face himself in the mirror of his feelings for others.

A good story is dependent on a great plot and engaging characters. While caution must be exercised to avoid undermining a robust plot, a relational quagmire is the perfect milieu in which to develop your protagonist’s character. Why? Because character is forged, or exposed, in how we deal with raw emotion and the consequences that result from emotionally charged actions.

Young-adult fiction writers should continue to feel unashamed in using love relationships to build strong, engaging characters—while keeping a well-crafted plot front and centre of one’s objective.

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