It’s a given that Young Adult fiction generally entails a romantic requirement. Whether it features as an inoffensive or an eclipsing theme is up to the author’s discretion. But then it goes further—the road splits into two. And much like when we spot a split end, we groan. Two ends means two roads. Two love interest. One main character.
There are two types of people (now I’m generalising here but let me have my moment) when it comes to split ends: those who refuse to give them the time of day and those who rumble through their belongings for a pair of scissors, eager to rid themselves of yet another strand of indecisive hair. Same goes when the road to romance is split; there are those who love a bit of extra eye candy (because let’s not kid ourselves here, when have these love interest not been some scrumptiously described, albeit fictional, characters?) and those who gag at the sight of fickleness. But then there are those who are fickle themselves. They don’t mind the occasional love triangle (one may even hear them talk about “sailing ships”) but then further down the track, there they are, cursing like a sailor, damning the fact that there are two ships in the sea.
So when you think about it, there’s about half a market for love triangles. But there are more triangles flooding the market than there is a demand. So why? Why is it so popular to undertake the triangle route? Are things better in three? Should we be concerned at the promotion of polygamy? Does it translate better to live a fictional fantasy where we pit character against character, allowing them to vie for a “hand in marriage”. Or does controversy simply sell better?
I’ve hit a hitch. As in, I’m a tad confused. I’ll tell you straight up right now: I have a double standard that favours no particular group (because I can't tell the difference between why I can stomach one over the other) for I am one of the fickle few who find themselves cursing the love triangle on one hand and and on the other, I'm taking sides (that’s right. I pit ship against ship.) Hold on, what I mean is that if there’s a triangle (that I empathise with—there’s no point picking anything if I feel no connection to the characters), I’ll perpetuate it. I pick a side. BUT I’m not happy that I have to do so. I’m grumbly, bitter and upset because the chances lie in favour of a future where I have “ship uncertainty” for three or more books (because everything is in a damn series nowadays.) So let’s recap: I hate love triangles, but in some cases, I’ll pick a side. What’s up with that? What makes one triangle better than the next? I preach consistency like water and air but here I am being incredibly inconsistent. I love patterns and my inability to deduce this pattern bothers me.
Now sure, I won’t deny that there’s a market for triangles because there is. There are people who live off choosing between two fabulous love interest for the protagonist. It’s a game to them. But more often than not, I see people condemning the love triangle. From personal experience, it’s more of a 3:1 ratio, in favour of hate. That begs the question: if we all passionately hate the promotion of fickleness, why on earth are there so many novels that escalate, emphasis and encourage indecision? I’ve thought about the many possibilities, all of which shall be condensed into the following:
1. Having a series calls for time, attention and plot. And a lot of it.
We’re a generation surrounded by the distracting likes of technology and it's offspring, gadgets. It means, we’re…easier to distract. And I know from personal experience that if something is deemed not worthy my time, I’ll let it go. Everything’s ever-changing. New television shows pop up like grass blades (odd simile but hey, don’t question it, go with it. Grass grows quickly, alright.) Mobile phones get upgraded bi-annually. Books come out every week (those tuesdays drain my wallet like nobody’s business.) So if a series loss my attention, I’d probably turn to something else (there sure as hell is enough out there to do so). What better way to keep the crowd attentive than to string out the romance for as long as you can. Loosing my attention would have to mean that there’s nothing left to stay for. Do you know what I stay for? Answers. I won’t ever say no to answers. If your book poses a question, I’m going to stay there for the answer. I can’t not know. It’s my habit (one that has bit me in the ass one to many times). And what’s worse than not knowing who the protagonist will stay with? Goodness gracious, if I invest time in a love triangle, I'd better get to know the outcome.
2. Capturing the “teenage experience”.
I’ve seen this excuse travel around quite a lot. It’s a go-to. Is it really the teenage experience to desperately want to love two others and not know which to pick because you don’t want to miss out on any of it? Probably. For some. For others, not for all. I don’t know what generalised teenage experience this is, but it sure as hell wasn’t mine (or am I about to be in for a shock because I didn’t have my “teenage experience” correctly. As you can see, this isn’t my favourite “excuse”.)
3. Fandom interaction equals unanticipated publicity which, shocker, equals sales.
At the end of the day, if your book doesn’t sell the prospects of another one (especially in a series) lie quite low. But you know what gets the sales going? Publicity. And what type of publicity works better than fans fighting for their “ship”. I don’t know about you but I’ve been sucked into way too many books based purely on the ship war. I see one. I think, “Jess, what are you missing out on? What is this supposed gem that’s getting the crowd riled up?” And then I’m roped in because that damning curiosity of mine must know (and lo and behold, I dig my own grave and therefore must lie in it). Wow, this happened to me with Splintered which, although holds its ground, did not attract me until I noticed the big Jeb vs. Morpheus fight.
5. Testing the waters of polygamy.
The history of the world goes something like polygamy, polygamy, polygamy, monogamy, monogamy, monogamy with slower and slower societal indifference to polygamy (keep in mind that when I say “ monogamy”, it’s more like official monogamy discounting whatever.) Once we realised that men having a billion and one wives was wrong on so many levels, society turned to monogamy. But have you realised that lately there have been nonchalant tones and attitudes flying around. The amount of times that I’ve heard people say things like, “So what, just cheat” or “Where’s your other girlfriend/boyfriend” shocks me. All the fuss over monogamy is slowly loosening. There’s now this greater acceptance for having your cake and eating it too (do you understand how long I’ve waited to use that idiom?!!) And it seems like fiction is where everyone is testing out the waters for this new idea. Slowly and slowly, there are themes that advocate cheating (of which I do not condone). With the love triangle, more often than not, we have a character that fails to DTR (define the relationship. I’m your go-to urban dictionary) and takes that opportunity to go in for a smooch (or two. Often it’s two) and profess “personal confusion”. Do I love this person, or do I love the other? Urgh. I feel a connection to both. It’s like taking a dip in the baby end of polygamy. Better off not getting too deep if you ask me.
I realise that I’ve raised a fair amount of questions. Most of this is personal opinion. Others are just some thoughts accrued from analysing where societal mentality is heading. I’m not saying that this is where the majority lies. I’m just saying that out there, someone’s nurturing these opinions. It’s a lot to take in. But I want your opinions on anything that takes your fancy in this post. Personally, I don’t know where I stand. This was just my own personal exploration into the domain of why? Why is the sky blue? Why do we eat with utensils? Why are there so many triangles of love?
So please, share your opinion. I’d love to know.