|Angry Jacob is like, super tired of everyone whining about love triangles.|
Everybody likes to whine about love triangles in YA. Myself included, let's be real -- you guys know I love to write about them even though I don't especially like them. I feel they're often wedged in for added drama and not pulled off with much success. HOWEVER: I have read love triangles I enjoyed and that functioned very well, and the reality is that love triangles are popular in the YA category (and other categories) for real, psychologically and sociologically sound reasons.
Why Love Triangles?
1.) Probably most importantly: they sell books. Agree with it or not, but they are popular fare for consumption. For their own reasons, readers enjoy them. So they're there.
2.) Digging a little deeper: a good love triangle is not about Hot Person #1 and Hot Person #2. A good love triangle is about choice. Relationships and love are very human things, and our literature has long reveled in making a metaphor of it. Matters of the heart are directly tied to our passions and emotions. Different potential partners represent different paths for the protagonist. One may represent her past, the other her future. One is a metaphor for giving in to revenge and destruction (Gale), the other represents finding peace and healing in his own way (Peeta). It's not just about making out, guys. We can see love as a metaphor in other fiction, so why are we blind to it in YA? Because YA dares to incorporate girly feelings instead of serious man-pain?
3.) More on choice: it's not a secret that YA is most popular with young women. Young women often don't get much choice in love, sex, and relationships. We're fed a constant narrative of "wait for your One True Love to find you" and "be a sexual gatekeeper" and "heterosexual monogamy within these strictly defined terms or else SLUT SLUT SLUT." There's still an element of possession with many young men (and older men, really). Hell, a guy doesn't even have to be dating a girl to lay claim to her -- friendzoning, anyone? So, is it any wonder that young women find enjoyment in living in a world where they get to choose? Where they can be attracted to more than one guy and it's okay? Where they can have sexy feelings that aren't immediately shut down? I very rarely see anybody complaining that male protagonists get to get it on with multiple ladies, but apparently we still like to slut-shame and belittle "indecisive, whiny" little girls.
4.) Because YA often includes sexual awakening because it's about adolescence and coming of age, and part of a sexual awakening is learning what you want in relationships and in bed (or not). So yeah, sometimes it's about not knowing whether you want one thing or another because you haven't quite figured out what you like yet. I have known many a person who has discovered that they're into certain kinks or types of people because they discovered those feelings in books first. Also: not everyone knows for a definite fact that they want the package hetero marriage-and-kids deal at 16 years old. AND THAT IS OKAY.
5.) Consider whether you're really bothered by the "useless" love triangle, or if you're just being unduly critical of the young female protagonist. Or, alternately, the woman who wrote the novel. You may be automatically hand-waving like, "pssshhhh no way, I just don't like things that suck," but I'm serious. Really lower your social filters and consider whether you'd feel the same way about the situation if it were a man writing about a boy choosing between two girls who wanted all up on his business.
And look, I feel you completely if you want to talk about the misogynistic elements present in novels featuring love triangles. You want to talk about how the female characters are still disempowered? Or that certain male leads get really rape-y? LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT. But I'm not going to talk about wah wah wah love triangles are always 100% yucky and horrible and serve no purpose, because that's not true.
Blah blah blah, TL;DR, here's the gist: SO WHAT THAT THERE ARE LOVE TRIANGLES. You don't like them? I don't like them! I still manage to find books to read! And I don't begrudge other people for being into a selection of love interests! Not my bag, but so what! Play on!