Put our relationship status down as it’s complicated.
They say love comes in many shapes and sizes. Love in YA lit is no exception. Yet, our beloved genre has gotten a reputation for a certain messy shape—the love triangle. There’s no denying that love triangles exist in YA (and in many, many stories!), but there’s some lesser known emotional shapes you should know about.
Classic Love Triangle
Formula: Person A likes Person B + Person C likes Person B + Person B is torn = Classic Love Triangle
Example: The Hunger Games
Analysis: This classic model is highly effective in frustrating readers time and time again, thus our use of the always relevant example, The Hunger Games. We get it Katniss, you and Gale have history, but Peeta gave you bread one time. Take your time sorting this out; we’ll see you on the other side in Mockingjay.
Conclusion: Choices are hard for the character. Opinions are strong for the reader.
Formula: Person A likes Person B – (Person C likes Person B + Person B hates Person C with a fiery rage) + Person B loves Person C with a redirected fiery rage = Shattered Triangle
Example: Shatter Me
Analysis: From an isolated prison cell, to the shower scene in Shatter Me, to Chapter 62 in Unravel Me, Juliette faces some romantic changes amidst the dystopian chaos of this series. The Shattered Triangle reminds us of the complicated layers that come with getting to know others, while also getting to know your true self.
Conclusion: There’s a fine line between love and hate. Beware of literary whiplash.
Formula: Person A likes Person B + (Persons C through Y can see they’re meant to be together) + Person Z likes Person A = Vanishing Cone
Example: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Analysis: Jodi Lynn Anderson has once again tricked us into rooting for complicated, underdog couples. At the center of The Vanishing Season love conflict: Maggie is the new girl in town who stirs up the inevitable childhood sweethearts, Liam and Pauline.
Conclusion: We all know where this is going, but we’ll stay with you until the bitter end.
Formula: (Person A likes Person B + Person B likes Person A) + Person C likes Person B x 34 other Persons = Selection Sphere
Example: The Selection
Analysis: LOL to that time you tried to figure out your feelings for someone while you’re competing for their affection against 34 other people. America’s confusion about her feelings for Aspen, her forbidden first love, and Maxon, the future King of Illea, is heightened by the public sphere of the Selection process.
Conclusion: Competition and love are a dangerous, deliciously entertaining mix.
Formula: Person A.1 likes Person B + Person A.2 likes Person C = Half-Remembered Trapezoid
Example: The Half Life of Molly Pierce
Analysis: Suffering from dissociative identity disorder, Molly is starting to uncover the secret life she’s led by the name of Mabel, including her relationships with brothers Sayer and Lyle. Molly explains her love situation best, saying, “You can’t decide how much you love people. It just happens.”
Conclusion: Even when the mind forgets, the heart remembers.
What are your favorite YA love triangles?