Two incredibly common and much-maligned conceits in YA are love triangles and insta-love.
One of my favorite quotes about romance in YA comes from author Ally Carter:
“Being a teen isn’t about figuring out who you should be with. It’s about figuring out who you should BE.”
Love triangles and insta-love can both be big parts of that search for identity.
Teens have parents telling them where to go, teachers prescribing what they read or write in school, and demands coming from tons of other places as they get ready to face “real” life in college and beyond. It is very rare for a teen to be in a position where they can truly make a choice (much less one that involves saying “no”) entirely on their own. One way to show teens in that power position–taking ownership of their life in a very literal sense–is with a love triangle.
Teenagers are fickle creatures. They have years and years ahead of them to settle down. Why not have a book with multiple love interests? Why not let them explore their options with two or even more love interests?
As for insta-love, well, isn’t that just shorthand for love at first sight?
There are a lot of instances where both of these things can be handled badly. There is the potential for a forced relationship or one with insufficient stakes. Underdeveloped characters or thin plots can be especially disastrous for love triangles or insta-love as making either trope seem contrived or as if it came without the proper foundation.
But as with any literary device if a love triangle or insta-love is handled well it doesn’t detract from a story. Instead, it can complicate and depth to an already rich story or even a new facet to a character’s personality.
Now that I’ve told you why I’m all for love triangles and insta-love (done well) here are some recommended books:
- The Selection by Kiera Cass
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
- Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
- The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
- The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
- The Jewel by Amy Ewing
- Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
- Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
- Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
- Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
6 thoughts on ““Bad” Romance: In Defense of Love Triangles and Insta-Love (ContempConvos)”
Love this post! I’m all for love triangles and insta-love (when they are written well) too! Especially insta-love, I used to fall “in love” with a boy just for holding the door for me as a teen. It feels real to me that quick emotions can feel very very intense at that age.
Maybe I’m cynical in my old age.. LOL but I get frustrated with insta-love and love triangles. That doesn’t mean that I don’t read books in this trope, only that it IS SUPER frustrating.
Throne of Glass has a love triangle in it and although I love the series, that seriously didn’t need to be added in the story.
I also think the frustrating part of insta-love is that the meaning of love can be subjective. In my case, I think love doesn’t happen overnight. But attraction does! So maybe attraction at first sight may be the right term for it.. Then it grows into love… So yes, I do get frustrated with the term insta-love/love at first sight because I honestly think that it’s not love YET. But that’s just me.
I don’t mind them at all as long as they aren’t too contrived. I agree with you. My love life as a teen was very formative, especially when I was able to move on from them. That is one thing I would love to see in YA fiction more. Not an eternal love and relationship, but a first but temporary love that helps them grow into an adult.
The only books I’ve ever read in those you mentioned above are The Selection and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. For the latter, I have to say, I really liked the book despite its love triangle. I think it’s because I already braced myself for it since I was expecting it, so I didn’t have high hopes for it. For the former though, it unfortunately wasn’t for me. I don’t know why, but I think it’s just one of those “It’s not you, it’s me” books.
I don’t really mind reading books with love triangles and insta-love in them, as long as they’re written well. Because if they aren’t, well, it might be one of the reasons why I’d have to take off one star by the time I write my book review.