Featured Review: The Project (Courtney Summers)
About This Book:
From Courtney Summers, the New York Times bestselling author of the 2019 Edgar Award Winner and breakout hit, Sadie, comes a sensational follow-up—another pulls-no-punches thriller about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister from a cult.
"The Unity Project saved my life."
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.
"The Unity Project murdered my son."
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 charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can't, she must finally leave them alone.
But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, 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.
Welcome to The Unity Project.
*Review Contributed by Olivia Farr, Staff Reviewer*
THE PROJECT is an intense and captivating YA psychological thriller. After Lo was critically injured in the car crash that took her parents' lives, she lost her older sister, Bea, to The Unity Project. The Unity Project is a somewhat mysterious organization that recruits people to essentially do missionary work, helping those less fortunate. However, there is something sinister about it and Lev Warren, the leader, who has been compared to a cult leader.
When Lo witnesses a death linked to The Unity Project and then encounters the boy's father at her magazine offices, she decides that this may be the way to find her sister, get answers, and also breakout as a journalist. Although she has only been working as an assistant, she wants to be a writer for the news magazine where she works. When she is offered an exclusive look and interview, she knows that this may be her chance. However, The Project is not an easy one to examine from afar.
What I loved: The book is told from Bea's points-of-view in the past and Lo's in the present, and I was completely captivated by both. It takes a little time to get into the hang of who is who at first, but it was soon smoothly read. Lev and the other individuals at The Project really come charismatically to life, and it was easy to see how Bea and others could get involved with such an organization. Although it seems too good to be true on the surface, digging deeper is more difficult than you would imagine, and I loved the way the sinister feeling lurks throughout the story. This book really shows how individuals could get involved with cults and feel stuck within them as well as the manipulative manner in which they are controlled. This was quite an intense ride.
I will add warnings for dubious consent, psychological and physical abuse, and inappropriate power dynamics in relationships. This was a challenging but completely captivating read.
Final verdict: Masterfully woven and highly compelling, THE PROJECT is a YA psychological thriller that will leave the reader guessing and second guessing until the end. This is an unputdownable book in the vein of SADIE, THEY WISH THEY WERE US, and I KILLED ZOE SPANOS.
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