Y’all, prepare yourself! I was very nervous going into this book because cults scare me. The lack of control, the initiation, the smart people being brought in even when they know better. It’s scary. But me not reading a Courtney Summers book was not going to happen so I swept my fears into a corner and DAMN, I’m glad I did.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.
Lord have mercy. The Project will take you on the ride of your life and while you might be a little emotionally bloody at the end, you’ll be happy you did it.
Characters (and a little bit of structure)
Lo is me. She is the skeptic, the one who’s been hurt and left behind, and the one trying to save the people she loves from being hurt. Which is why the way Lo is drawn into The Unity Project is all the more scary. Because she is us all. She is the person you’d never expect to “fall for it.”
But when she discovers what the head of The Unity Project, Lev Warren, did for her when she was in the hospital as a kid, it’s easier to understand how she comes to accept it.
That’s not to say she comes to it easily. For most of the book, Lo is fighting against The Unity Project and trying to find out where the fuck her sister is. That fight is who she is for so long. She lost her sister because of this thing and she’d rather die trying to get her back then give up.
The third option, the becoming part of The Unity Project for real, doesn’t even enter her mind until it does. And again, that’s what makes it all the more scary.
Now to Bea. Damn, I love her too. She cares for Lo so much, but there’s only so much someone can do when they’re are young, scared, and hurting. And that’s when Lev strikes. For her, he’s someone to talk to, someone who undestands, and someone who helps her sister.
We get Bea’s point of view through flashbacks of her time in the hospital with Lo, her time first meeting Lev, and her days, months, and years in The Unity Project.
Y’all know I LOVE a book with multiple POVs and Courtney Summers is an expert at it as she’s shown in both Sadie and The Project.
I don’t know how Courtney Summers does it but she takes a topic that you might be scared of or worried about and she makes it so you can read it. I don’t know how else to put it.
I had plenty of emotions while reading The Project (many of them included me shouting “holy shit!”), but I never felt so overwhelmed that I needed to stop reading. Her writing never becomes so graphic or gratuitous that it’s unbearable. It feels like she fully respects the topics she writes about, her characters, and her readers that she doesn’t want to cause any real harm.
I was pulled in from the first chapter and didn’t want to stop (but apparently sleep is something I need. ugh lol)
Trigger Warning: physical violence/abuse, drowning, cults (obviously), mentions of child abuse, car accident, manipulated sexual consent, manipulation in general, blackmail, panic attack, suicide (there’s a train involved), grooming, branding and burning
Overall, The Project is amazing in that it will make you feel all the things and shockingly…there is kind of a happy ending???? If you know Courtney Summers’ books, you know this is like a rarity. Or maybe it’s not happy but just like…not the most sad thing ever. Either way, READ THIS BOOK!! (if you can, obviously. take care of you first)
Oh and I’m giving this 5 out of 5 stars if you couldn’t tell already.
The Project comes out February 2, 2021
Thank you to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for the free eARC in exchange for my honest review.
If you’d like to show your support for me and/or the blog, buying me a coffee goes a long way to keeping this blog up and making my life a little more stable. Love you all!