First up, Nightlight by the Harvard Lampoon.
Pale and klutzy, Belle arrives in Switchblade, Oregon looking for adventure, or at least an undead classmate. She soon discovers Edwart, a super-hot computer nerd with zero interest in girls. After witnessing a number of strange events – Edwart leaves his tater tots untouched at lunch! Edwart saves her from a flying snowball! – Belle has a dramatic revelation: Edwart is a vampire. But how can she convince Edwart to bite her and transform her into his eternal bride, especially when he seems to find girls so repulsive?By far the more popular and more widely-available Twilight parody novel on the market, Nightlight was a huge disappointment. For a book written by the Harvard Lampoon – you know, IVY LEAGUE HUMOR PEOPLE – it’s painfully dumb. Painfully. Perhaps it was my mistake for expecting something, I dunnno, more from them, but I went in to Nightlight hoping for some kind of relevant, witty commentary on Twilight‘s failures as a book. You know, jokes about the faults of its characters, the absurdities of the storyline, or lack there of. I expected something smart. In reality, the level of humor here can be accurately surmised by the monikers the Lampoon has bestowed on its lead characters. If you think Belle Goose and Edwart Mullen are downright HILARIOUS variations of Edward and Bella’s names, then you may possibly find Nightlight funny. If, however, your reaction was closer to “Really? Is that the best you could come up with? Was that like…funny to you guys?” then you’d probably be better off avoiding it.
Complete with romance, danger, insufficient parental guardianship, creepy stalker-like behavior, and a vampire prom, Nightlight is the uproarious tale of a vampire-obsessed girl, looking for love in all the wrong places.
It’s a shame, too, because there were some amusing concepts and ideas presented in Nightlight that suffered terribly from skewed development. The idea is that Belle is delusional – she convinces herself that Edwart, your everyday unremarkable nerd, is a vampire because she wants him to be. Vampire boyfriends are cool, man, so she actively shoehorns him into that mold. Belle sees supernatural attributes where there clearly are none, and at points goes so far as to instruct Edwart in how to behave more like a vampire would. For example, she orders him to be more possessive and controlling of her – despite Edwart’s obvious discomfort with it – because that’s how vampires treat their girlfriends in the movies, hurhur. It’s more a parody of the fangirl mentality than of Twilight itself, which could have worked fine, if more effort and intelligence had been put into it. Instead, aside from one or two amusing bits in the beginning re: Bella’s mom, the Lampoon settles for nerd jokes and pratfalls rather than any meaningful satire.
It’s mind-boggling as to why, with a series as rife for parody as Twilight, the writers chose to take the delusional fangirl schtick and run it into the ground. If it weren’t for the way the book mocks Stephenie Meyer’s writing style, I’d wonder if the writers had even read Twilight at all, or if they’d simply settled for gathering their material from what they’d seen on tv and heard from their girlfriends and younger sisters. We get no kind of love triangle parody at all, which is absolutely absurd to me considering how much of Twilight, as a series, is devoted to that triangle, but how could we when there’s not even a Jacob-equivalent character, if you can believe that. We really get no commentary on Bella’s characterization except for her clumsiness, which is played often and loudly like she’s a lost member of the Three Stooges, nor do we get any real parody of the increasingly ridiculous plot points throughout the Twilight series.
Instead, at the last minute we get a random twist that involves Belle dating an actual vampire for a chapter or two, where she discovers the moral of the story: that dating an immortal asshole probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Again, it’s a nice idea, but aside from presenting said thesis in the most obvious way possible, that twist completely fizzles out and goes nowhere. Hell, even the Vampire Prom at the end – literally, a separate prom for vampires, probably the only joke that does garner a chuckle simply by existing – is wasted because they do nothing with it. It’s just there. And for some reason, the authors have decided that things just being there is enough of a reason to laugh. And it’s really not.
Nightlight‘s saving grace is its brevity. At 150 pages, it’s something you can breeze through in an hour, if you really feel like sticking with it that long. Personally, I’d say don’t even bother with it at all.
Next, The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Geillor.
A small town… a plucky heroin, a shiny vampire, and a hunkey Native American rival with a secret. But all is not as it seems in Lake Woebegotten. Let Harrison Geillor reveal what lies beneath the seemingly placid surface. You’ll laugh. We promise.After the complete and utter failure that was Nightlight, I was weary of another Twilight parody…until I read the last line of Woebegotten‘s summary: “This is a love story about monsters…but the vampire isn’t the monster.” How perfect is that? Maybe this book could actually get why Twilight is so fucking annoying. And I’m happy to say that not only did The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten meet my expectations as a parody, but it exceeded them in becoming its own sort of story, as well.
When Bonnie Grayduck relocates from sunny Santa Cruz California to the small town of Lake Woebegotten, Minnesota, to live with her estranged father, chief of the local two-man police department, she thinks she’s leaving her troubles behind. But she soon becomes fascinated by another student – the brooding, beautiful Edwin Scullen, whose reclusive family hides a terrible secret. (Psst: they’re actually vampires. But they’re the kind who don’t eat people, so it’s okay.) Once Bonnie realizes what her new lover really is, she isn”t afraid. Instead, she sees potential. Because while Bonnie seems to her friends and family to be an ordinary, slightly clumsy, easily-distracted girl, she’s really manipulative, calculating, power hungry, and not above committing murder to get her way – or even just to amuse herself. This is a love story about monsters…but the vampire isn’t the monster.
I wasn’t initially sure what to thing of that second part though – Woebegotten takes many liberties with Twilight‘s core story, not just in characterization, but in plot content as well. But as a whole, I think it makes the book stronger, and certainly more interesting. One of my biggest problems with the original Twilight‘s plot was that, y’know, it didn’t exist. Boy and girl fall in love…for like three-quarters of the book, and then all the sudden the author realizes “Hey, I’ve got no real external conflict here, maybe I should look into that,” and POOF, evil vampires who want to eat Bella for absolutely no good reason show up and…well, try to eat Bella. For no goddamn good reason.
Woebegotten over-compensates a bit – not only do we get a character to fill James’ role (although this one at least has more believable – if cliche – motivations), but we also get an antagonist to directly oppose Bonnie, and another conflicting group woven in to the overall narrative. Here, not only does the Native American tribe (the Oujibwe) have an anti-vampire force (werebears, thank you very much), but the humans do, too: the Interfaith Vampire Slayer League
They’re responsible for some of the funnier scenes in the book, being that the group includes two men of faith (a crazy priest who insists the vampires are “DEMONS!”, and a timid ex-Pastor); the local militant conspiracy nut who was conned into joining by said priest, and believes the vampires are bat-human hybrids created by aliens; the mayor’s hard-ass wife, who casually suggests wiping every member of the Scullen clan out while knitting; the weary young Sheriff’s deputy who brought them all together; and the high school principal, a closeted serial killer who’s in it for the sake of killing vampires.
Twilight would have been ten times better with a group like that in it. Or, alternatively, this:
The book’s narrative follows the first Twilight‘s basic plot while bringing elements from New Moon, Eclipse, and a twist on Bella’s change in Breaking Dawn into the storyline. The overall result is that the pacing and sequence of events are a bit uneven, but such is the fate of a series parody condensed into one book. Ultimately it didn’t make much of a difference to me in terms of enjoy-ability, and that is all because of the twist on Woebegotten‘s heroine, Miss Bonnie Greyduck.
Yeah, okay, so the name might actually be worse than Belle Goose, but it’s the characterization that’s important. As a character, Bonnie Greyduck was about 100x more likable than Bella Swan, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. For me, at least, this is because, while Bonnie was quite literally a sociopath and a murderer, she wasn’t a goddamn limp, helpless noodle. Instead, Bonnie manipulates to get her way, playing clumsy and innocent to fit in and lower people’s expectations, and pretty much dominates every character in the book. She may be a scheming psychopath, but she’s focused, motivated, crafty, blunt, and certainly more interesting than her perpetually distressed and pretentious counterpart. And yeah, not gonna lie, her cold-blooded snark and attitude towards the world is pretty damn funny, too.
I liked the twist on Edward’s character, Edwin, as well, because I am cynical and bitter and love to see fluffy, over-romanticized bullshit like Twilight exposed to reality. The Edwin of Woebegotten is just as whiny and emo and tortured as Edward, but – shockers – in Woebegotten, that’s not a good thing. Edwin cries and whines and professes his love like an over-dramatic moron, and even Bonnie gets irritated by his emo at times. What’s even better, though, is that in Woebegotten, Edwin has an interesting dating history that takes even more of the shine off his ~perfection~, and his and not-Bella’s ~beautiful and pure~ relationship – because here, living girls are Edwin’s kink.
The James-character in Woebegotten is actually Edwin’s ex, another human girl he claimed to “love”, but refused to change because vampires are evil and soulless and blahblahblah. So this girl went out and got herself changed by another vampire – in exchange for ten years of indentured servitude, no less – so that she and Edwin could live together happily ever after…eventually, and what does Edwin do? He dumps her. Supposedly because he realized she was shallow and annoying and he never loved her, anyway, but really because well, she’s dead now, and that’s booooring.
Also, instead of sparkling, Edwin’s super-predator power is that he smells like whatever is most attractive to you. Nice.
Woebegotten does even more shit to Bonnie and Edwin’s relationship that I’m sure would piss of the fangirls with the way it killed the romanticism, but that I enjoyed immensely. They’re things that we’ve all joked about before, theories and eventualities we’ve seen speculated about in discussions and on the internet, and it’s funny to see them put into practice. For example, when Edwin pulls his “I’m not safe for you, I must go~!”, Bonnie mopes for like an hour, and then sets her sights in manipulating Jaochim into a relationship, in hopes that he can somehow make her a were-bear, too. Edwin gets to show his inner tool shine a bit when he comes back, because he admits that part of the reason he didn’t wipe her memory of him was because he wanted her to suffer without him the way he was suffering without her, and that he was disappointed that she didn’t mope for years without him. Nice.
Bonnie also admits from the beginning that she’s into Edwin because he’s gorgeous and mysterious, and because his being a vampire is interesting. However, once she becomes a gorgeous and mysterious vampire as well, she starts seeing Edwin’s faults, and begins losing interest. She then manipulates the Jacob-character, Jaochim, into having an affair with her behind Edwin’s back. And yeah, he turns into a bear while they’re having sex, and no, they don’t stop.
Don’t lie, you know you’ve wondered about it.
The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten is just fun like that. It takes the absurdly romanticized aspects of Stephenie Meyer’s series and makes them interesting and subversive and twisted and dark. Hell, it even makes the goody-two-shoes Cullen family dark towards the end. It takes the stupider technical aspects and flat-out calls her out on them, like in this passage:
Aren’t you freezing out here without a jacket?”Burn.
“I guess you probably run hotter than normal, what with your were-bear metabolism,” [Bonnie] said. “That makes you better able to stand the cold, huh?”
Jaochim turned and frowned at me. “[…]that doesn’t make sense. If my body temperature were higher, I’d feel the cold more. When you run hotter, it’s harder to maintain homeostasis, you know? A lower body temperature would actually be better for withstanding the cold.”
I frowned. Maybe I should have paid more attention in biology class instead of mooning over unreliable vampires.
So yeah, if you couldn’t already tell, The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten is infitely better than Nightlight, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good Twilight parody. It’s not the BEST THING EVAR – there are a few continuity issues (neither the book nor I are sure if Esme’s name is Elle or Emily), and not gonna lie, Growing Up Cullen made me laugh longer and harder. But it’s good.
Growing Up Cullen gets five stars.
The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten gets three.