Just when it looked like the vampire allegory had worn out its welcome in American fiction, here comes “Unwelcome,” the debut novel by author Michael Griffo.
“Vampires draw in teenagers, and other people who have been isolated, because they are the ultimate outsider; yet they have all of this power,” he says. “They’re strong. They’re immortal. And yet, they’re considered to be outsiders. At their core, they are alone. But they’re seeking love and companionship and approval. And that’s the way many teenagers feel.”
In his new book “Unwelcome” (Kensington Books), Griffo has added his name to the list of authors who have breathed new life into the familiar vampire genre. The first in a trilogy of novels for young adults, “Unwelcome” breaks from tradition by placing a teenage boy at the center of the plot.
‘Vampires draw in teenagers, and other people who have been isolated, because they are the ultimate outsider, yet they have all of this power.’ – Michael Griffo
Friendship of outsiders
The trilogy, which will include the young adult novels “Unwelcome” and “Unafraid,” focus on the coming of age of main character Michael Howard, a gay youth from Nebraska who travels to Eden, England, to attend Archangel Academy. There, the 16 year old Howard meets Ronan Glynn-Rowley, who turns out to be what Griffo calls a “hybrid” vampire.
Since the larger society sees both boys as “unnatural” outcasts – Howard because he is gay, and Glynn-Rowley because he is a vampire – the two become fast friends and soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous world of secrets and mystery.
Griffo said he mapped out the trilogy and began working on it before the 2010 suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi and the latest media attention around bullying. But he knows the similarities between his plot and recent headlines are obvious.
“Because of the supernatural element, this is not a story about how you can overcome bullying, because let’s face it, no kid who is really being bullied is going to become a vampire,” Griffo stated. “But Michael is bullied by one character and he is able to escape that [situation].”
“Unwelcome,” the second book in the Archangel Academy Trilogy, will be published in September, to be followed by the March 2012 release of “Unafraid.”
Interestingly, despite sharing the same first name as his protagonist, Griffo said that the trilogy is not autobiographical.
“The story has very, very little to do with me,” he said, adding that he received his share of teasing and taunting in high school, but no more and no less.
In fact, Griffo had a “wonderful childhood. If I could do high school over, from my time in high school, not as a teenager now, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
He said he hopes the book will resonate with local young readers, and he hopes they will see it as a fun, “engrossing piece of fiction…And, I hope it instills in them [the idea that] if writing is what you want to do, it is possible.”
A successful playwright who has had several plays produced for the theater, “Unnatural” is the first novel Griffo has written under his own name. He previously published an adult novel under a different name. He has also written movie screenplays as well.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.