In the last young adult book you read, I'm almost positive you came across a love triangle in one form or another. It was probably between two boys and one girl. Am I right? Eight times out of ten, I'd say yes.
We have a not so new trend of indecisive, fickle heroines that are unable to make up their minds when it comes to their love lives. One minute she's in-love with Grayson, the mysterious alluring boy that just moved next door. The next, she's in-love with Will, the cute naive boy that would never leave her side. Then, the emotions overwhelm her to the point that she just can't choose. Will she pick Will or Grayson? Will or Grayson? If you get the pun, kudos to you.
Apparently, true love is being unable to pick who you want to date. Instead of discontinuing your relationship with one of the guys, you go back and forth between both of them, making out with one or the other on your latest whim.
Last time I checked, this was called cheating. If you were married, it would be called adultery. The way many heroines go on about true love, they act as if they're already married. Either way, it isn't cool.
I can tell you first hand that cheating--and adultery in general--isn't cool. But why is it being treated as the beacon of true love? Is this the message we really want to send teens?
Remember, this isn't the time of arranged marriages. Nor are these books marketed to adults. They're marketed to teens.
My favorite example of cheating treated as the righteous path comes from Vampire Academy. I'm sure many of you are familiar with this series. Instead of commenting on the age difference, or the inappropriate relationship between the hero and heroine, I will focus on the topic at hand. If you haven't read the series, there will be spoilers.
Our first love triangle consists of Rose, Dimitri, and Mason. It is very obvious that Mason likes Rose—in fact, Rose acknowledges his crush in Vampire Academy #1. Mason is one of her best friends and Dimitri is a teacher that she barely knows. What should she do?
Well, if you're a decent person, like Shizuku in Whisper of the Heart, you'll try to tell your friend that you don't feel the same way. Leading them on is wrong. Honesty is the best route, even if you don't want to ruin your friendship.
Rose, on the other hand, leads Mason on until he dies. She never tells him that her heart lies with Dimitri. And after his death, she doesn't think about him past Shadow Kissed #3.
But Rose isn't done yet. Instead of letting time pass, she immediately jumps into a relationship with Adrian, days after she gives up on Dimitri. Then, when Dimitri wants her back, she gives in without a moments hesitation. She doesn't bother to think about Adrian because he's still of use to her. Instead of breaking up with him, she leaves uses him until she doesn't need him anymore. Then, she has the nerve to accuse him of playing the victim. Her callousness continues for the remainder of Last Sacrifice #6, but that's for another post.
Other times, heroines are just too dumb to make up their minds.
Even if I like Jacob Black, you can't deny that Bella was cheating on Edward when she kissed him. Even if I'm champion of the nice guy, cheating on your boyfriend isn't right. Is it so hard to break up with someone before moving on to your next make-out session? With teens, things happen, but these events are played off as true love and holy righteousness.
In one of my favorite books, Looking for Alaska, cheating is handled in a mature, albeit inept way. Miles cheats on Lara and he has to apologize.
In another one of my favorite books, Looking for Alibrandi, Josephine Alibrandi is in a committed relationship with Jacob, even though she has feelings for—or used to have feelings for—John. Does she act on those feelings? No. Does she work through them and manage to keep her friendship with John? Yes.
In a rather recent book, Before I Fall, Sam realizes that she no longer loves her boyfriend. Rather, she is in-love with another boy. But before running into a relationship with said boy, she breaks up with her boyfriend first.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not against love triangles per-say. In fact, my WIP features love triangles, cheating, and dysfunctional relationships. What I am against is cheaters being portrayed in a positive light while those who are cheated on are seen as stupid saps.
In a book I recently reviewed, Invincible Summer, there is a love triangle and an abundant amount of cheating. Yet, the flaws with this relationship are pointed out and the topic is handled maturely.
If I'm sounding preachy, it's for a reason. When reading, I like a certain amount of morality present. I'm not saying that all the characters should be saints—that would make for a boring read—but I would like certain characters to be called out on their flaws. A self righteous jerkass should not get away with being a self righteous jerkass. More on that when we discuss what makes a flawed sympathetic character.
Remember, even Darth Vader doesn't believe in cheating.