Just three months after their mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Audrey Casella and her older brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their maternal grandmother near the Nevada mountains. Their grief-stricken father has become unable to care for them, and he decides his children will be better off without him.
On the drive through the mountains, the family stops at a hotel for the night. Hotel Ruby is beautiful, with its burgundy patterned floor, dark wood paneling, and opulent chandeliers. The elegant guests roam the gardens, bask in the ever-present sun at the pool, and, if one is fortunate enough to receive the black invitation, dance the night away at the exclusive evening party in the ballroom.
Without an invitation of her own, Audrey joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past. The more she learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows.
Audrey is 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 Hotel Ruby.
1. How does each member of the Casella family respond to grief? Do any of them seem to be dealing with their mother’s/wife’s death in a healthy manner? What are some healthy ways to deal with tragic loss?
2. Audrey struggles with the fact that she kept dating Ryan even after she knew she no longer loved him. Why did she continue the relationship? What would be the right action to take with someone with whom you have fallen out of love?
3. Why do you think Audrey feels more of a connection to Elias than she did with Ryan?
4. Daniel can’t get a signal on his phone even though he has seen others using their phones and no one ever seems to know the time. What other strange moments happen in the Ruby that strike you as unusual?
5. The Ruby Mountains are in Elko, Nevada, so it is likely that the name of the hotel and the title of the book came from the mountain range. Why else might Suzanne Young have named the hotel and novel “Ruby”?
6. How does the interior of the Hotel Ruby add to the creepy atmosphere of the novel? Are there some specific details that can be found in a typical horror story?
7. Describe Catherine. What seems to be her motivation early on in the book? Does her behavior change throughout?
8. Lourdes and the other staff aren’t invited to the party in the ballroom. Lourdes asks Audrey to join them for a party on the roof. Even though they’re strangers, why does Audrey say yes? Which party would you have rather gone to? Why?
9. Why is everyone scared of Kenneth, the concierge? Is there a difference between how he treats the guests and the staff? How does he control both groups?
10. What is the significance of the thirteenth floor?
11. What song do you think Audrey hears throughout the book? What is its significance to the overall story?
12. How does Audrey’s relationship with her father change throughout the book?
13. Do you think Daniel is a good brother? What were some examples of how he tried to look out for Audrey both before and after they came to the Ruby?
14. What ultimately happens to Kenneth and what does it mean for Audrey?
15. Audrey has to make a devastating choice at the end of the book—would you have made the same decision?
16. Describe the day after the party at the end of Hotel Ruby. How do you think the story continues?
Activities and Research
1. How do you imagine the Hotel Ruby to look? Draw the lobby, ballroom, or another place in the hotel that you think added to the atmosphere of the story.
2. Pretend you are making a movie of Hotel Ruby. Make a playlist for the different scenes. What song would be the one that Audrey keeps hearing? What music would be playing in the ballroom or the dining room? What music would you choose for the violent scenes or scary ones?
Guide written in 2015 by Shari Conradson, an English, drama, and history teacher at Brook Haven School in California.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Suzanne Young is the New York Times bestselling author of The Program series. Originally from Utica, New York, Suzanne moved to Arizona to pursue her dream of not freezing to death. She is a novelist and an English teacher, but not always in that order. Suzanne is the author of The Program, The Treatment, The Remedy, The Epidemic, A Need So Beautiful, and Hotel Ruby. You can visit her online at Suzanne-Young.Blogspot.com.