I was honestly shocked how much I loved this book and I think I’m back on a thriller kick due to this. Thank you to Wednesday Books for approving my request to read The Project through NetGalley. This has not impacted by review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Project by Courtney Summers
Published: February 2, 2021
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: YA 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.
Let me start off by saying I read this in 2.5 hours. I spent about an hour and a half on Thursday night reading 55% of this book, and then another hour reading the rest the next morning. I couldn’t put this book down. I loved the plot, I adore the writing, and honestly I want to re-read this book immediately.
One of my favorite things in thriller novels is alternating POV and alternating timeline – this book has both. We get to go back in time and see Bea and Lo as children. Bea during her time in the Unity Project (The Project), and Lo’s past as well. While the book follows Lo’s POV in 2018, we get to go back in time to see Bea’s life and Lo’s life and what lead them to this moment. I think it’s a great way to tell a story, especially for a thriller, and I loved it in this book.
Getting to the actual plot, I am not joking when I said I couldn’t put this book down. Finding out why Bea joined The Project, what she experienced, in correlation to Lo’s research and experience was enthralling. I didn’t want to put the book down and miss out on what was going to happen next. Every twist and turn lead me to just read faster because I had to know what was going on! It’s like an accident you can’t turn away from.
But don’t get the analogy confused – the writing is stunning. I loved Sadie and I think I just love Courtney’s writing in general. She has a way of making even the creepiest or most terrifying moments beautiful. It fuels my desire to find out what’s going to happen next, even as I peak past my fingers at the carnage. And with the events in this book, I couldn’t stop staring at the chaos of The Project.
One thing I will remark on, and I think is important to remember for cults, is how enthralled the victims are in the scheme. For Lev, the leader, he wanted Bea and then Lo. Even though Bea was 15 years younger than Lev, and Lo 20 years younger, he still wanted them and used them. There are sex scenes in this book between Bea and Lev and Lo and Lev, and it’s disturbing. While uncomfortable, it shows how charming Lev is as a cult leader and how these poor girls have been sucked into his deception so wholeheartedly, they’re willing to give up their bodies to him. It’s not pretty, but this does happen.
While this book is hard to read, it’s the idea of the beautiful disaster that keeps you engaged. I really had trouble putting this book down and mixed with the beautiful writing, engaging plot, and great switch between voice and time – I was hooked. This book sucked me in and wouldn’t let me leave.
If you’re looking for a great cult thriller, you absolutely need to pick up The Project!