Oh, the love triangle trope. So many books include this in one way or another to add a dash of drama and conflict. Typically I find it to be done poorly, as you almost always know which individual a character is going to end up with. The other is just there, and either they are used to make the first individual appear to be the better option. Or leads to cheating occurring, which is a massive no for me. There are a few times where this trope was done, where I didn’t mind it being included.
These are all series that I loved and have read multiple times. However, that doesn’t mean I was a massive fan of how romantic relationships played out in the books. Some of them I absolutely hated, while others I loved. This is probably why this trope isn’t on my least or most favorite trope lists. Because it seriously matters how the author decides to make use of the trope during the series.
Do both potential love interests hold a true candle?
Are they there purely because conflict couldn’t be found in another place?
Does the story involve cheating while the main character is still in the middle of both love interests?
So, I decided to look at how a few different book series approached this trope and what worked and didn’t work for these series. This is by no means all the book series that I enjoyed that had this trope, but the main ones that highlighted this trope.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
This next series developed a love triangle over time. Tally did not meet David and Zane at the same time, nor did she set out to cheat on either guy. But it kind of happens, as Tally turns herself over to a corrupt government and their procedure that makes her forget about things in her past, which results in her getting with Zane after leaving David temporarily. Once she gains her full mind back, you can tell she’s torn between the two.
Tally never plays the guys against each other. They both want her, yes, but she stays with Zane until it’s no longer an option before she ends up with David. I was rooting for her to end up with Zane, and in a way she did (trying not to give away the end of the series on what happens).
What fell flat?
Cheating technically happens. Tally never ended things with David, they were still very much in love with each other even if things were shaky between them before she goes for the procedure.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
This series technically started out with a love triangle between Celeana, Dorian, and Chaol. This went on from Throne of Glass to Queen of Shadows. I only include the third and fourth book, as the conclusion between Celeana and Chaol doesn’t happen until then even though they had already ended their relationship in Crown of Midnight. But the majority of this love triangle happens in the first two books, which feels like a totally separate series from the rest.
Celeana never cheated on Dorian or Chaol. Relationships were clearly defined.
The guys weren’t pitted against each other. They were best friends and stayed best friends after everything happened.
What fell flat?
While Celeana had some chemistry with both guys, I never thought they’d end up as endgame. Which they didn’t (thankfully).
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Ok, getting into the bigger love triangles now. The Hungers Games had a major one that was played between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. But being honest, I never saw Gale as an option for Katniss. Even if he technically was there, which is probably a strong example of where I find issues with the love triangle trope.
I literally can’t think of a single thing in the triangle that worked. I always saw Katniss ending up with Peeta. Their relationship worked, even if it started off as something played for the cameras. There was never a time when I went “oh it could go either way” or “I think this conflict between the guys helps the plot”.
What fell flat?
Gale always came off as the nice guy, i.e. the individual who is like ‘I did all these nice things for you, so why aren’t you in love with me or do things I want in return.’
Gale never gets the clue that Katniss doesn’t want to be with him, but also never really sends him to the curb.
The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
This is probably the ONLY time I thought the love triangle worked between Jem, Will, and Tessa.
Tessa’s relationship with each guy was believable and real. And they were close/supportive of each other with their relationship with Tessa. Heck, both guys at some point get married to Tessa. If that’s not a sign of how this is the only time the love triangle is a true triangle then I don’t know what is. Tessa loved Will and Jem, and the guys loved each other as brothers.
Will respected Jem and Tessa’s relationship once they got engaged, as he backed off completely even though he was in love with Tessa until after he believed Jem died.
What fell flat?
To a degree, Tessa used Jem to avoid Will. I do believe she loved both (I mean she marries both), but at one time it felt like she only agreed to marry Jem because Will wouldn’t get over his fear that he would be the death of anyone he loved.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Twilight is another example where the love triangle did not work at all like in The Hunger Games. Heck, most of my points are going to be the same.
I literally can’t think of a single thing in the triangle that worked. I always saw Bella ending up with Edward. Even if it was toxic and boring, I still never went “oh, I wonder if she’ll change her mind and end up with Jacob.” No, he’s purely there for conflict… and don’t even get me started on how the love triangle resolves. Because just NO.
What fell flat?
Jacob always came off as the nice guy, i.e. the individual who is like ‘I did all these nice things for you, so why aren’t you in love with me or do things I want in return.’ Bella punches him for that at one point, which is one of the few points I’ll give Bella. But the rest of the way she handled her relationship with Jacob was wrong. She leads him on and even when she’s with Edward (like he’s not that far away) she asks Jacob to kiss her. Purely in an attempt to prevent him from being on the frontlines of a battle with newborn vampires. Talk about stringing a guy along. Especially when we all know she’s never going to end up with the guy.
The Dark Elements by Jennifer L. Armentrout
This love triangle kind of works. It has elements of where I think the love triangle trope can be done right, but there were also areas where I’m like “was this necessary?”
Layla never cheats on Roth or Zayne. Or strings either along. She might go from Roth to Zayne and then back to Roth, but there was no overlap between the relationships.
The guys while they both want Layla, respect her relationship with the other even if they don’t like it. Roth gave her up to keep her safe and didn’t try to get back with her until she almost accidentally kills Zayne and was tortured/almost killed. At this point, things ended between Layla and Zayne. Not to mention, Roth was willing to let Layla go if she wanted to be with Zayne. I respect that.
What fell flat?
I never thought Layla would end up with Zayne. While yes, they had chemistry and got into a relationship, it always felt like two best friends who should’ve just stayed that. Not to mention, it would never work between them without Layla embracing her demon side (literally she almost accidentally consumed his soul when they kissed when she didn’t have a demonic familiar), which he never really accepted. He always pushed her to avoid that side of her, but also used it to his advantage.
There are more books that have this trope, but I think these ones highlighted the sum of my thoughts on this trope: I like it when boundaries are not crossed (i.e. no cheating), I like it when you don’t fully know which direction the main character is going to go, and I hate when the trope is purely used to add conflict. Unfortunately, most of the times you see this trope it’s used only for conflict but I never felt like the second option ever really had a foot in the race.
What do you think of the love triangle trope? Which books do you think did it well and which ones do you think did it the worst?
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