Title: The Project
Author: Courtney Summers
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.
When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.
I honestly don’t even know where to start. This book blew me away and I couldn’t put it down. I found myself sneaking reads during work until I finally could give it the attention it needed after. “Call your dad you’re in a cult” has never rang so true. But what if your parents are dead and you’ve been isolated from your sister? And what exactly makes a group a cult?
This is my first book by Summers so I’m not sure if it’s her typical writing style, but it was very editorial. I feel like this was done on purpose because Lo wants to be a writer, to write an expose on The Unity Project. It took me a moment to get use to but it fit the events of the book perfectly. The plot itself was very fast paced and engaging.
We get a dual POV, seeing events in the past from Bea’s perspective and the current events from Lo. They’re both unreliable narrators though and of course their information is limited thanks to Lev Warren, the charismatic leader of The Unity Project. It’s hard to form your own opinion when everything is so skewed. I did feel so bad for the sisters though. They obviously loved each other a ton and their whole world was rocked by the death of their parents and Lo’s near death experience.
I was actually surprised though that it was Bea that joined The Unity Project first and had to double check the synopsis after the first couple of chapters to be sure I had it right. While Bea was outgoing, adventurous and fiercely protective of her little sister, Lo was more withdrawn and scared of the world around her. She relied so heavily on Bea and their relationship as children. I just felt like she had the personality of someone who would want that acceptance and security Lev’s group would offer.
As someone who is a true crime junkie and knows a lot about Cults and their leaders, even I had a hard time distinguishing if The Unity Project was or was not a Cult. In theory what they were doing for those who needed help was admirable, but Lev himself never sat right with me. The core of the group felt icky to me while those on the fringes seemed to actually to be trying to doing good.
The Project pulls you in and then spits you out completely shaken up, leaving you to wonder what the heck you just read. It’s definitely one I plan on rereading in the future just to see if I catch things I didn’t before. Summers truly did an amazing job bringing this story to life. It was well thought out with just enough real-world details to really creep me out.
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