Five Love Triangles that Changed YA Literature

Sometimes the only thing better than being in the arms of your lover is being in between your blankets, nose-deep inside a good book filled with love triangles.

Book Culture Recommendations Romance Young Adult

You can always rely on love triangles to inspire passionate discourse among fans. Rooting for the ‘wrong’ love interest can result in broken friendships, but there’s nothing more satisfying when the protagonist finally chooses the right interest.

Love triangles are utilized often to elevate one love interest and build contentment for the moment the protagonist realizes they know which one is right for them. But that journey can be a long one, and fans grow passionate about which side of the love triangle is the best one. Here are five of the most popular, impactful love triangles to hit the YA genre.

Betrothed or the Brother?

The cover for 'Red Queen' depicting a bloody crown upside-down.

Brother love triangles can be confusing, but Victoria Aveyard manages to twist the convention by betrothing the protagonist, Mare, to one of them. Red Queen introduces betrothed, charming Maven and his colder, older brother, Cal, who catches Mare’s attention.

The book gently urges the reader to fall for one brother, only for a shocking twist to leave the reader just as confused and heartbroken as Mare is. In a twist of betrayals and manipulations, the series of five books follow Mare as she attempts to navigate her feelings for each brother and their complex feelings for her.

The Only Two in the World

The cover for 'Shatter Me' depicting an open eye with trees and waterfalls lining it.

Falling well into the trope of the sandy-haired, childhood best friend against the dark-haired bad boy, Shatter Me uses this convention to the fullest. Tahereh Mafi crafts a story around the protagonist Juliette, a girl with a killing touch. After years of isolation, she meets finally someone who can withstand her physical contact.

Adam is Juliette’s elementary school crush and is the first in so many years to actually stand up for her. And then there’s Warner, a viciously complex character who at first only sees Juliette as a tool. The first book leans heavily toward one boy as the ideal interest, but as the story progresses through sequels, the other takes the spotlight and captures Juliette and fans’ hearts alike.

High Lords at Odds

The cover for 'A Court of Thorns and Roses' depicting a beast behind the text.

This retelling of Beauty and the Beast also contains a love triangle that spawns over a series of several books, starting with A Court of Thorns and Roses. Feyre lives with a masked shapeshifter, Tamlin, who shows her gentility despite his brute strength. Despite her anger and distance, she warms up to her cohabitant and the two fall in love. Then comes Rhysand, a seemingly manipulative and mysterious High Lord whom Feyre is forced to work alongside, but helps her when she desperately needs it.

Author Sarah J. Maas resolves this love triangle fairly early on in the series, but both characters have a sizeable impact on Feyre over the course of the story.

The Game Changer

The cover for 'The Hunger Games' depicting a gold mockingjay pin.

It’s impossible to discuss love triangles without noting Suzanne Collins’ impact. I have vivid memories of sitting at my lunch table in middle school, eating apple sauce and the school’s version of a hamburger, and discussing with my friends whether we were all Team Peeta or Team Gale. Both boys have their strengths and flaws, but did we lean toward the strong, childhood/family friend or the unrequited, kind-hearted lover?

The table was split. After the profound success of The Hunger Games with three novels, three movies, and prequel projects on the way, fans still argue about who is the best pick for Katniss Everdeen. Playing into the “fake dating” trope as well, Katniss and Peeta’s slow burn is centered on survival, but even when she escapes the capitalistic, horrifying death match of a game, Katniss falls for who she can’t live without.

The Debate of the Decade: Team Edward or Team Jacob?

The cover for 'Twilight' depicting pale hands offering a red apple.

From posters to cardboard cutouts to t-shirts to tattoos, fans were endlessly creative in ways to proclaim their support for the correct love interest in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. Playful werewolf Jacob Black seems to be the right choice for Bella Swan, but he just doesn’t live up to the standard set by Edward, a complex, brooding vampire.

I was first introduced to this love triangle much later than most when I watched the film adaption with three die-hard Twilight fans. Seeing their reactions to the movie was a first-hand account of the novel’s impact on readers and their desperate desire to reach through the pages (or screen) and tell Bella that Edward is waiting right there for her.

The story follows Bella Swan as she moves to live with her father and encounters fantastical characters (and love interests). This series popularized and redefined love triangles within popular culture and still evokes strong reactions from fans of all ages.

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