I first met Suzanne Young at the ALA Annual Conference last June. Since then, I’ve purchased her newest debut, HOTEL RUBY, and her bestselling series, The Program, for my library system. Each setting offers a compelling premise:
When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.
Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.
The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…Welcome to the Ruby.
In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.
Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.
Suzanne was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:
According to your bio, you’re both a novelist and an English teacher. In what ways, if any, do both careers feed your creativity?
I love teaching high school, but in recent years there’s been a shift in education that I think stifles creativity. So when I’m in the classroom, I try to be a spark for the students. I try to inspire them. Best way to do that is by letting them be creative. I plan hands-on activities where they can create movies, magazine, or models based on classic books we read. Most recently, they created an entire marketing plan for a unit on advertising.
In writing young adult fiction, I also try to inspire. I hope I write books that people want to read. Because when I help someone discover their love of reading, when I reach reluctant readers, I’m happy. And both teaching and writing helps me accomplish that.
Your writing reaches more people than you know. Currently, I’m selecting teen books for a local youth detention facility, and they’ve asked for The Program series specifically. I also love how HOTEL RUBY is about healing. What inspired the story, and how did the characters develop as you wrote them?
Although I love the horror elements of HOTEL RUBY, the tale of a family’s grief is always what spoke to me. It’s a love story—but not between Audrey and the guy she meets. It’s a love story of a family and how one girl will do anything to heal them. She will do anything to keep from losing them completely.
The story started with the intention of making it a YA “Hotel California”. Then I added characters, and the deeper I got into their lives, the less it became about a haunted hotel and the more it became about personal demons for the characters.
I think those human elements are what makes Audrey and her brother so relatable. Similarly, The Program series grapples with depression, and the consequences of burying feelings so deeply they almost become forgotten. Along these themes, what do you hope teens might gain from Sloane and James’s story?
Ultimately, The Program series is about hope. The characters are in a dark emotional space—the pressure, the loss, the loneliness—but they kept fighting. Sloane and James never gave up. Not on each other, but more importantly, not on themselves. Sure, they made mistaken and had moments of weakness, but those are the parts of them that are real. So I hope readers understand their pain, but in the end, feel the sense of hope that is waiting at the end.
I definitely felt that when I read it. What are some of your current projects?
In April 2016, I have THE EPIDEMIC (yay!) coming out. It is the sequel to THE REMEDY and the prequel to THE PROGRAM. It ties the two books together. In the fall, I have a contemporary novel called ALL IN PIECES. Stay tuned for more details on that.
I certainly will! Thank you, Suzanne!
To get a hold of HOTEL RUBY, or the books in The Program series, click the links below: