Young Adult Storylines-The Requisite Love Triangle

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.  

My thoughts-Sandy




17 thoughts on “Young Adult Storylines-The Requisite Love Triangle

  1. Excellent post, Sandy. It is a very interesting topic, and you have expressed yourself very well. Let’s see how I see your topics

    Does a YA storyline require a love triangle to keep the reader’s attention? I do not think it is necessary. Sometime it is nice, and in the case of Twilight, to me it worked very well. There is a big division on Team Edward and Team Jacob, making a lot of money on those two teams. The Hunger Games was also successful, thought Katniss truly did not spend a lot of time with one of the heroes until the last book. But I have read some great YA books filled with action, suspense, love, and there was no triangles. So not all books have this, and they do work. I know Divergent and Graceling were not triangles, just to name a few.

    Do authors do an injustice to young adults writing ‘romance’ stories where physical perfection always wins out? I can’t answer that, because to me. all members of the love triangle look like perfection, or close. lol

    Again, great post.

    • It is amazing some of the things we don’t think about when reading the YA storylines.

      Amy Plum’s Revenant series is free of the love triangle as it pertains to the central characters. So there is none of the angst or sorrow of a broken heart.

  2. Fantastic. I was thinking about this the other day. So many of the YA stories have a love triangle or two. I am not sure why the authors feel it is necessary but there must be some niche in the market for teens.

    As for requiring a love triangle, I don’t think the storylines require a love triangle, but again, the stories are initially directed at young adults at a time in their lives where wanting to belong and feeling loved are at the top of their list.

    And yes, the young adults are savvy enough, but there is always some that take the storylines to heart and like you say, when you put a face to the character it becomes that much more -real! Great article. Makes you think.

  3. Sandy, first, I just want to state how much you completely, and utterly blow me away with your articles. So well done, thought out, and eloquent. Just superbly written!

    Secondly, you are absolutely correct. I do not read YA novels, because I know they almost always showcase a love triangle. I am an adult, with a fully developed mind–and the grasp on reality versus fantasy that comes with. I am a mother. I have experienced heartache, and loss. I live tthe stress that comes with reality everday. And yet I myself can not STAND to read a love triangle in fiction. If I am so affected by these plot devices, I would never want my child to read them until they were old enough to seperate themselves from the caring they feel for a FICTIONAL character.

    Honestly, I feel that it is irresponsible of authors to write such content into their YA novels. However, I also feel as if parents need to be very very invested into the lives of their teenagers. Talk to them about life in general. Do not sugar coat harsh realities of life, because the more knowledge they have to more prepared to cope they will be. It is not the responsibilty of authors to change what they write….it is the responsibility of the parents to either not allow their child to read such novels, or to sit down and have a one on one conversation addressing the issues they have read.

    Once more, fantastic article Sandy.

    • I agree with everything Miranda has expressed in her post! It is a fantastic article. I wish I had more time to comment, but it’s back to work I go…….heigh ho!!

    • Thank you for the compliments Miranda.

      Some people try to justify saying that they read adult books when they were teens etc, but these books are directed at teens, with storylines specifically for young adults.

      Many of the decisions for these storylines premises are not always the author’s but the people behind the scenes….and the authors must follow the dictates of those in charge. Sadly the genre of YA storylines has been greatly affected by the success of Twilight etc and because the formula of the love triangle worked (in tandem with the success of the books etc) the publishers etc push for other storylines to follow similar outlines…….

  4. Just like Miranda, you blow me away with your articles Sandy!! As you know, I have several YA series that I read. And, to be quite honest, I never have really given the love triangles much thought. And let me tell you why. I’ve never thought they made sense, and were just a necessary evil in the YA genre. Take for instance Team Edward/Team Jacob, which imo, pretty much surmises and represents all of the triangles in this genre. I NEVER understood why there IS a team Jacob!! LOL!!! The one of the three who ends up on the outside, again in my humble opinion, didn’t have a chance in hell in the first place. Just words to fill the pages…………..And to give that angst feeling…………… Do the stories need them? No. But somewhere along the line, that’s what this genre has turned into. I only hope that the young adults that are actually reading these stories do realize this is FICTION…………. Kind of like vampires and shifters!! And, NO, they are not real!!! 😉

    • Thanks Vickie. As for the necessary evil, apparently they area necessity if one wants to follow the success of some of the more popular series. If it is successful for one, they one not another.

      My concern is the psychological effect on the young readers. The storylines can be heartbreaking and painful, and many young teens experience it on a daily basis with crushes, and first loves and rejection. I think that sometimes the teen psyche is a little too fragile for some of the heartbreaking storylines.

  5. Excellent article Sandy, your thoughts are well written. First off I have to say I’m not a fan of the YA genre in general. There is only one YA series I will read and it’s only because it’s connected to a series near and dear to me and I think you know which one I speak of. However, I did read the Twilight series only because it was in the paranormal genre and at the time when I first came across the first book, was unaware it was YA till I picked it up from my library. Me and the librarian that day had a good laugh over me getting a YA book. Needless to say I had to read them all to see how it would end.

    As for the love triangle, I think you need to thank soap operas for that one. I think they wrote the love triangle rules. I find many love triangles whether they are in YA books or adult books, are very closely written and related to those in the soaps. Sometimes I find love triangles can add to a storyline, but most times just wind up annoying the hell out of me as they tend to go on, and on, and on and by the time they are wrapped up I can care less. That’s probably one of the reasons I don’t venture into the world of YA books. However, I do see your point in how they can influence teens at a time in their life when things are not as smooth sailing as they’d like them to be. Really good article and some food for thought. Bravo Sandy

    • Thanks Marcie. I never thought about the soap opera as having an impression on the love triangle in YA storylines.

      As for going on and on, there are a few YA series that have continued past their prime and the love triangles have yet to be resolved. With each book, the characters are deeper into the love, and you know someone will get hurt. I have to have a HEA and in some cases I don’t see an easy resolution. Some readers becomes so attached to these characters that to put them in an impossible situation, can make or break both the series and the fan base.

      But if readers are like me, once I start a particular series, I want to see what happens next, but in some cases, the storylines are waning and I am losing interest fast.

  6. Myself I have no problem with the triangles. It work well for Twilight and I loved Deborah Cooke’ Zoe. Myself I feel if it encourages reading I am all for it. Both my grandaughters are very mature in their thinking and have no problem knowing it is fiction. QA good article Sandy.

  7. I know this is going to sound sad, but I never thought about it from an actual teenager’s POV. Probably because when I was a teen, I was reading books by authors like Dean Koontz and Michael Crichton as opposed to the romance genre. I only started reading romance in about the past 6-8 years. And, while I don’t mind the love triangle, I totally understand your stand point. I, absolutely, want that HEA for all characters involved. When I think about it from an actual teen’s POV, I completely agree with you. They already have so much to deal with and worry about, this is kind of adding to their pile. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your opinion.

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