YOUNG ADULT STORYLINES-The Requisite Love Triangles
As most of you know I am NOT a fan of the YA love triangle for so many reasons but the biggest and most heartbreaking is the fact that everyone deserves to love and to be loved especially by the object of one’s affections. The YA (young adult) storylines are fraught with more love triangles than any other genre or age-defining series and with the new crop of authors and young adult series arriving on our virtual shelves at an alarming rate my angst is blossoming fourfold. With the advent of the e-reader and the ebook, there are so many authors promoting their books and storylines that as a reviewer I am unable to keep up with the daily proliferation. And yet, there is nothing new or awe inspiring about many of these new novels, but there is one constant – that of the teen-aged love triangle. Whether the attraction is between humans, human and vampire, vampire and were, or a sub-species of supernatural being, the attraction between these young adults presents a conundrum of very large proportions on differing levels.
Does a YA storyline require a love triangle to keep the reader’s attention?
For some apparent reason, the love triangle is a major premise in the young adult storylines. From Stephenie Meyer’s TWLIGHT saga (Bella, Edward, Jacob): Cassandra Clare’s MORTAL INSTRUMENTS (Clary, Jace, Simon) and INFERNAL DEVICES (Tessa, Wil, Jem): L.J. Smith’s VAMPIRE DIARIES (Elena, Stefan, Damon) to indie authors like Addison Moore’s CELESTRA (Skyla, Logan, Gage, Marshall) series the 3-way and sometimes 4-way love interests are heartbreaking, angst-ridden, gut wrenching and occasionally annoying and condescending. And in many of the cases, the heroine is in love with both man-boys (or more in some cases) and vice-versa. This alone makes for a heart-breaking storyline knowing that one or more will not stand up to the unwritten guidelines set out in the young adult budding romance category. In many cases, the author will add another female character to appease the ‘runner-up’ for the heroine’s affections or in some cases (gasps) kill off the also-ran. Fans of ‘Team Jacob’ were slightly incensed when Stephenie Meyers wrote a new ‘love interest’ for Jacob in the form of Edward and Bella’s newborn hybrid vampire/human daughter: Cassandra Clare has found a partner for Simon with Jace’s ‘sister’ Isabelle: and Infernal Devices’s Jem appears to be on his way out possibly succumbing to an addiction: and in the case of Addison Moore’s Celestra series all 3 young men profess their love for Skyla and yet each is willing to risk her life and even kill (if necessary) the object of his affection –doesn’t really sound like love to me but it apparently works- each incarnation she is still deeply in love/lust with the man-boys and is willing to profess her love and intentions with each depending on whom she is with at the time. I kid you not-this young woman is in love with all 3 man-boys and they are in love with her. The intensity of the love is beyond the capabilities of most humans, yet this young woman professes her love to each as though he were the only one for her. And…each man professes his love for the girl hoping that he will be the ONE…*sigh*…my head hurts.
What I have to point out (and bear with me on this) is that these storylines are works of fiction and if there is one thing I know, many readers love these characters as though they are best friends and lovers. They will discuss the intimate details of the character’s lives and place human attributes, human rules and human laws on fictional, fantasy and supernatural beings. When a reader places his/herself into the storyline, and becomes deeply involved with the characters and the premise, he/she will feel the angst and heartbreak associated with the loss of love or rejection by the heroine (in the cases I have mentioned). Many young readers will side with the rejected lover because he is usually the underdog and can feel both empathy and sympathy for unrequited love. The teen years are hard enough for many young adults fighting acne, hormones, first love, crushes and mood swings of epic proportions, and yet they endure the stories of rejection over and over in the hopes that perhaps one day, reflecting the reality of everyday life, the underdog may win the girl and live happily ever after. But real life is not a fantasy or fiction storlyline, and in most cases, the girl doesn’t get either boy because there is rarely the reality of the love triangle. But fantasy/fiction is the operative concept. We read to escape for a few minutes or few hours. We are taken to magical worlds where men with wings swoop in and take us away to a hidden cave or secret location (looks around wondering if anyone noticed I lost my way). But I digress.
And yet many will read this and say ‘give these young adults more credit’. Believe me, I am, but with the popularity of the Twilight Series and the uproar over Team Edward vs Team Jacob, many fans take their storylines and characters very seriously. And to add fuel to the fire, the heroes and heroines are all beautiful and the images portrayed on book covers and in the movies reflect the unnatural perfection of the storyline characters, as do most adult novels, but most adults know the difference between reality and fictional characters. When a face is placed on a character, that character begins to take on a believable persona. Jacob (aka Taylor) and Edward (aka Robert) by any other name and face, would illicit a different reaction if the actors portraying the characters looked like the average teenaged boy with pimples who has yet to shave or reach his full height.
Do we (adults) do an injustice to young adults writing ‘romance’ stories where physical perfection always wins out?
At a time where image is everything and is so pronounced in the media, on TV and the big screen, the young adult storylines are filled with beautiful teens, who overcome some tragedy to find the perfect mate waiting for them when their head comes above the proverbial water and yet there will always be the one who wasn’t quite good enough, perfect enough or destined by fate to be the ONE. And here lies the problem with the love triangle-someone will always be hurt. Regardless of whether or not another ‘mate’ is found, the initial drama of the unrequited love will forever be part of the storyline premise and the boy left behind will always know he was never good enough on some cosmic scale of teenaged justification. And in some cases, it is the reader who will walk away with a broken heart wishing that Bella chose Jacob or Clary chose Simon. The reader will imagine him/herself waiting in the wings to rescue the runner-up in a tale of heartbreak and love. And there is usually something physically different or wrong with the one who didn’t get the girl. In some cases the difference is subliminal (blonde hair vs black hair) where the reader is not wholly aware of the semiotics used throughout the story.
So like many others readers, the perpetual young adult love triangle breaks my heart when I imagine so many young teens facing their own reality of unrequited love although not on the same scale as most of today’s YA storylines. The angst and pain of lost love or the experience of rejection is real enough when it happens to you, but to read about it in virtually every YA novel, brings it full circle with every publication and premise in the young adult genre. I know my heart is breaking, the tears will fall and by the end of the book, I am exhausted.
So, I offer this post up for thought. I know I am not the only reader who is frustrated with the YA love triangle. What is your opinion regarding the young adult love triangle? Do you feel that today’s young readers are savvy enough to distinguish between the fictional love triangles and the reality of their own lives? Do you think that these YA love triangles are too heartbreaking and angst-ridden for those readers already experiencing a tumultuous life as a teenager growing up in today’s world? Do you think the Young Adult storylines require or need a love triangle to keep the reader’s attention?
NOTE: The series and storylines mentioned in the article are only a few of the young adult books I have chosen to acknowledge with regards to a three way love interest. I am in no way pointing a finger at a specific author or novel, but use these as a few examples that come to mind where the love triangle is a major premise in the storyline development.