Unbound (All Good Things #1) Available on Amazon/Smashwords/Unknown (All Good Things #2) coming soon.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Love Polygons

"Anyway, why is it always a triangle? Why isn't it a square or an octagon?"
Franny Banks ~ Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham 

This feels like a dangerous post. I know some people feel very strongly about love triangles. In fact, some people speak about them with a vehemence that is typically reserved for cockroaches. And since all of my posts seem to be of a confessional nature, I'll stay true to form and admit it: I like love triangles. *ducks as fellow book nerds throw things at her*

I know, I know. Love triangles are overused and too often portray girls and women as too helpless to make decisions in their lives. And it seems that every other up and coming YA book throws a love triangle in, sometimes seemingly as an afterthought or a selling feature. And, of course, there was that love triangle, the one that had the world divided between Werewolves and Vampires. I blame that love triangle for giving other love triangles a bad name. 

But I think love triangles, well executed, can do wonderful things for a story. A love triangle represents the dialectic in all of us. The acknowledgement that we have multiple and sometimes conflicting needs. In our attempts at regret management, we pretend that we can be certain of our choices. But most of our decisions, particularly the ones related to love and relationships, are so rarely straightforward. Some small part of us always regrets the path not taken, the boy not kissed, the journey never begun. But a love triangle demands a choice, forces us to choose one over the over. Demands certainty when none exists. 

"Look, the romance in these movies, it's not supposed to be some sort of dark mystery. It's a conceit, a way to show different sides of the main character, what she's struggling with. It's a way to make an internal struggle dramatic. People see themselves in that struggle. They keep using that structure because it's familiar to most people and makes sense to them." Dan ~ Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham 

Taken at face value, love triangles can be silly and vain. And too often they are used to showcase a person's desirability, in the lamest sort of show, don't tell kind of way. But if we look a bit deeper, love triangles acknowledge that in love, the choices we make are mutually exclusive. In the right context, they are symbolic of the risk that accompanies those choices. And the sadness and anguish we feel when we let go of one thing we need in order to hold on to another. 

It's everything you wanted, it's everything you don't
It's one door swinging open and one door swinging closed
Ross Cooperman - Holdin On and Letting Go 

Ten Notable Love Triangles

King Arthur, Lancelot, & Guinevere - I am such a sucker for this one. Love, and tragedy, honour and duty. I think of this as the template for so many modern day love triangles. The choice between loyalty and passion. For a lovely interpretation of this love triangle - see Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry.

Angela, Jordan Catalano & Brian (MSCL) - Why did this show end when it did? Why?! The boy next door versus the boy we can't have (or doesn't want us). My heart used to ache for Brian and just when Angela had begun to look at him in a new way…cancelled. 

Andy, Ducky & Blaine (Pretty in Pink) - Right? We all loved Ducky getting his Otis Redding on. But we knew, didn't we? That he wasn't going to be the one she kissed in the parking lot. 

Buffy, Angel & Spike (Buffy) - Notable for the lack of emphasis on the triangle. But it was there. Even after he left, Angel's presence was felt in every Buffy/Spike interaction. He was the one Spike would never live up to and Spike was the one Buffy settled for in his absence. It was painful to watch. 

Elena, Stefan & Damon (TVD) - arguably one of the most hotly debated triangles on television. Delena and Stelena have created shippers that are rabid in their devotion for one pairing over the other. Kudos to Julie Plec for continuing to give each side some satisfaction even though a (new) choice was made. Just for the record though, I'm Delena all the way. 

Veronica Mars, Logan, & Piz (VMars) - More fist shaking at universe. Why TV gods? Why did you take VMars away from us before we were done with her? The upcoming movie is apparently heavy on Piz versus Logan. Classic nice guy versus bad boy. I like nice guys, but I'm still Logan Echolls (swoon) all the way. 

Katniss, Gale & Peta (The Hunger Games) - Am I the only one who didn't like how the movie interpreted the Katniss-Peta relationship? Maybe I'm naive, but I really thought there was something other than survival in her connection to Peta. I liked to think of Peeta as the boy who was so kind, deep down, she didn't believe she deserved him. 

Clary, Jace & Simon (The Mortal Instrument Series) - More good guy versus bad guy. I'll admit that I liked the relationship between Clary and Jace. Nice tension, until, well, my quiver was doused by the whole incest thing. 

Jehane, Rodrigo & Ammar  (Lions of Al-Rassan) - Now this, THIS is a love triangle done well. Both men of worth and a woman who can stand on her own with or without them. Guy Gavriel Kay writes women so beautifully. Smart and funny, and accomplished. If you like High Fantasy, The Lions of Al-Rassan is a gem. 

Elayne, Min, Aviendha, & Rand (The Wheel of Time Series) - This one is just silly. An actual love rectangle. And I although I've tried twice, I run out of steam around book eight. It's just too much. 

Archie, Betty & Veronica (Archie Comics) - I was so confused by this love triangle as a kid. Why on earth would anybody like Veronica? She was such a mean girl. And Betty was kind and funny and pretty. Truly Archie - why the indecision? 

Who did I miss? Let me know which triangle you love. Or love to hate. Or just plain hate. 


  1. Personally, I have no problem with love triangles. If I have any issues it's going to be the plot in general or character development, not because two guys are fighting over a girl, or whatever. (We don't often have two girls fighting over a guy.) I don't know why people have a problem with them, really. If it adds something, then great. And usually it does. Even if that something is a lot of angst and sexual tension. :P

  2. I'm all for the angst and sexual tension too. You're right that it's usually two guys and a girl, rather than the other way around in YA. I wonder if that's because of the audience (i.e., mainly female) or does it say something about cultural mores and relationships?

  3. Love triangles, if not overtly cloying and over-dramatic, are okay. Through my three years reviewing YA, however, I've realized that so many books are just books about these triangles with touches of other genres thrown throughout. I think, if they're carefully women into the story, they're great. It's a rarity to find a truly well done triangle these days though.

    1. Right. I agree, Melissa. As part of a story I think they work, as THE story, I think they end up being flimsy and superficial.

  4. I need to add one triangle to your otherwise exhaustive list:
    Watts, Keith and Amanda Jones (Some Kind of Wonderful, 1987, a movie written by John Hughes)
    In the movie, Watts plays a tomboy who is best friends with Keith, but is also madly in love with him. But Keith has the hots for Amanda Jones, a beautiful and popular girl at school. When Keith admits that he has no idea how to seduce Amanda, Watts takes it upon herself to educate Keith on basic romantic skills. This leads to one of the most romantic kisses ever to be captured on film, and some serious heartaches for Watts.

    1. Some Kind of Wonderful! Watts! Yes, thank you for the inclusion Augusta. A nice example of two girls and a guy triangle. And if I recall they managed this one without making the other girl (Lea Thompson) a 2D, easy to hate, popular girl.