I’m not planning to do proper book reviews as a part of my blog, because picking apart a book at the seams to either recommend it, or not, just doesn’t interest me.
That being said, I do love to talk about what I’ve read.
These two in particular are from my latest library haul. An Ember in the Ashes I got because Tumblr has gone ga-ga for it, and it did sound intriguing. The Probable Future was a result of my “This title caught my eye, skim the jacket and the first few pages, okay it’s coming home with me” policy. I do that at least once every time I go, to find works I might not have read otherwise. Plenty of books don’t pass that test and get put back on the shelf, but this one made the cut.
I’m pairing them together because, for all their differences in style, story, and target audience, they both got one thing right, one thing that I think goes wrong a lot, especially in YA: love triangles.
But here’s the fake-out. The reason they work, and so many don’t, is because they’re not actually love triangles at all.
In both books, Character A isn’t a bone that B and C are fighting over. The narratives focus on A’s confusion over their conflicting feelings for both B and C.
In An Ember in the Ashes, both Elias and Laia experience this, which I felt was a great equal-opportunity situation. Laia is drawn to Elias, but also feels something towards her handler, Keenan; Elias opens a can of worms with his best friend Helene, but can’t ever quite stop thinking about Laia. It’s honest, it’s handled delicately, and it’s strictly internal.
It’s never about the two potential love interests clashing directly.
The same holds true for Stella in The Probable Future. She comes to a new town and meets Hap, who quickly becomes her first and best friend. But as she settles into her new life there, she finds herself falling for Jimmy, the slightly-older town troublemaker.
Stella questions her feelings for both of them–why she doesn’t feel more for Hap, when he’s obviously so good, and why she does for Jimmy, when he’s rough around the edges.
But it’s never about Hap vs. Jimmy anywhere except inside her head.
To put the cherry on top of this character-development sundae, Jimmy’s attraction to Stella leads him slowly away from his delinquent behavior. Not because she gets on a high horse and lectures him, or punishes him through neglect when he’s done something wrong–simply because wanting to be with Stella makes him make better choices.
He even (spoilers! Do I need to put up spoilers for a book that’s twelve years old?) helps save Hap’s life. How anti-angsty-love-triangle can you get?
Love triangles done well: internal struggle instead of external conflict and posturing.