The Project – Courtney Summers [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

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.

Review:

Huge thank you to Wednesday Books and Negalley for providing this e-arc in exchange for my honest review!

I discovered Courtney Summers in 2019 when I read her incredible book, Sadie. I was initially drawn to Sadie because of the way it was written . . . in dual perspectives with one being Sadie herself and the other a podcast host who is investigating Sadie’s disappearance. I am a huge fan of true crime and podcasts so I was totally into this. Sadie ended up being an incredible book. It was dark, emotional, and raw, but such a powerful read. So when I saw that Courtney Summers was releasing another “true-crime-esc” book I knew I had to read it! Especially because I am FASCINATED by cults!

The Project tells the story of two sisters whose lives have been forever changed by the group known as “The Unity Project.” The story is told through both sisters perspectives and in both the past and present. The Project is about the bond between sisters and the lengths they will go for each other.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: suicide, trauma/ptsd, cults, mental + physical abuse, and violence

Overall, I really enjoyed The Project. It hooked me from the very first page! The Project is a dark and suspenseful story that illustrates the rise of an enigmatic and charming cult leader. I thought that Summers did an excellent job of showing how vulnerable people are taken in and exploited by cults. The Project is ultimately a story of how loneliness and the desire to belong can affect vulnerable individuals.

On the outside “The Unity Project” appears to be an excellent, service driven organization that does incredible work for the community. But we know, and the lead character (Lo) discovers that there is much more going on than appears. Lev Warren is the quintessential, cookie-cutter cult leader. He wasn’t any different than any other movie/tv show/pop culture cult leader character. I do think that Summers did a great job of showing Lev’s manipulation and how he pinpoints what each vulnerable potential member needs. This is especially true with him and Lo. At some points it was actually hard to read Lo’s journey. I keep using the world vulnerable, but I don’t know how else to describe her. It was difficult to watch her (minor spoiler alert) get taken in by this manipulative man.

The Project is a shorter book at 352 pages so the plot progressed fairly quickly. The journey is intriguing, but it did not wow me. I did guess the reveal pretty early on as well. But I was still expecting there to be a bigger moment of excitement or a big climax. The book just kind of ended without much fanfare. The ending was almost too clean. The plot was wrapped up too quickly and too easily. I even felt like one of the plot points involving a character was sort of dropped and not really wrapped up.

Despite my couple of complaints, I still did really enjoy The Project. I just wanted more! It was super interesting though and kept me hooked from the start. Also I’m obsessed with the cover!! I think it’s so striking and it fits the story so well!

The Project is set to be released February 2nd by Wednesday Books.

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf – Hayley Krischer [ARC Review]

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

“Ali Greenleaf’s story is complex and beautifully told; full of fury, heartbreak, and hope.” –Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces and How to Make Friends With the Dark

Ali Greenleaf and Blythe Jensen couldn’t be more different.

Ali is sweet, bitingly funny, and just a little naive. Blythe is beautiful, terrifying, and the most popular girl in school. They’ve never even talked to each other, until a party when Ali decides she’ll finally make her move on Sean Nessel, her longtime crush and the soccer team’s superstar. But Sean pushes Ali farther than she wants to go. When she resists–he rapes her.

Blythe sees Ali when she runs from the party, everyone sees her. And Blythe knows something happened with Sean; she knows how he treats girls. Even so, she’s his best friend, his confidant. When he tells her it was a misunderstanding, she decides to help him make things right.

So Blythe befriends Ali, bringing her into a circle of ruthless popular girls, and sharing her own dark secrets. Despite the betrayal at the heart of their relationship, they see each other, in a way no one ever has before.

In her searing, empowering debut novel, Hayley Krischer tells the story of what happened that night, and how it shaped Ali and Blythe forever. Both girls are survivors in their own ways, and while their friendship might not be built to last, it’s one that empowers each of them to find justice on their own terms.

Review:

Huge thank you to the Penguin Teen Influencer program, Razorbill, and Netgalley for providing this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

I don’t really know how to review this book. Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf is the story of Ali, who was raped by popular it boy Sean, and Blythe, who is the queen bee of high school and is Sean’s best friend. Hayley Krischer tells the story of Ali’s rape, the events that follow, and how both girls are forever affected.

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf is quite hard to read at times. The trauma and emotions that Ali goes through are unimaginable but unfortunately so common. I had a very hard time sympathizing with Blythe at all, but I understand how the author was trying to show us another victim. Blythe is extremely unlikeable and I don’t agree with her actions but I do understand how she is a victim of Sean’s too.

This story is about rape culture in our society and the way victims are shamed and manipulated. It is a powerful story that shines light on a difficult subject. It at times made me sick to my stomach. But I am so glad I read Ali’s story. It is honest and heartfelt.

The author provides trigger warning and multiple resources for sexual assault survivors.

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf is an intense, emotional, gut wrenching, and authentic story. While it can be difficult to read, this story is so important and powerful.

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf is set to be released on October 6th.

Sadie – Courtney Summers

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

Review:

Trigger Warnings: sexual abuse, pedophilia, drug abuse, violence, and murder

Wow. . . I don’t know what else to say. Sadie was an incredibly emotional, raw, and dark book. I applaud Courtney Summers for how she told this story of abuse unapologetically and without sensation. I know that true crime is all the rage lately (for myself included). Sometimes we can get too caught up in the offender and put the focus on them rather than the victims. Summers did not do this at all in Sadie. She never focused on the actual acts of abuse or the abuser, but rather the effects on the victims. I thought it was so important that Summers showed (through Keith) that abusers are so often a wolf in sheep’s clothes. Summers was able to tell a powerful and compelling story that is educational and also respectful.

I absolutely loved the way Sadie was written and how the story was told. The narrative is split between two alternating figures . . . West McCray, a podcast host who is investigating the disappearance of Sadie Hunter, and Sadie herself, who is on a mission to find her sister’s killer. West’s POV and investigation are a few months behind Sadie’s POV, but the two storylines worked together beautifully. I had never read anything like this before. It was so compelling and a perfect way to tell Sadie’s story.

Summers leaves the ending open without a definitive answer. I want to hold out hope for the outcome/answer that I so want to be true, but part of what I loved about Sadie is how realistic it was. I’m unfortunately inclined to think the worst. We will never know for sure. I do know that Sadie will stay with me forever.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, #1) – Jenny Han

15749186RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (AKA 3.5 stars)

SYNOPSIS:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

REVIEW (Spoiler Free):

Like a lot of people I found my way to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before because of the Netflix movie. I had heard about this book for a while, but it wasn’t high on my TBR. I like contemporary, but I don’t like to read it all the time like I do with fantasy. I absolutely LOVED the TATBILB movie and I am now obsessed with it. Like most who’ve watched it, I am head over heels in love with Peter Kavinsky and the actor that plays him (Noah Centineo). I knew after finishing the movie that I had to read the series. I almost never do this. I am a firm believer in reading the book first because the book is (almost) always better (The Notebook is the exception to that rule). I will say that I loved the TATBILB movie so much and the book was good, but wasn’t as great as the movie. This most likely has to do with Noah Centineo and Lana Condor being exceptional actors. Despite loving the movie more, I still adored the book! Throughout the entire book, I could picture movie Peter and it made my heart so happy. There were some small differences between the book and movie, but nothing major.

As for the actual book, I don’t have too much to say other than I really enjoyed it. It was a light, quick, and easy read which was just what I needed. The story itself is adorable and I love the concept. It’s so dang cute. I’m a sucker for these romantic contemporary stories.

Some random thoughts. . .

  • Book Margot is a huge bitch and I was not a fan.
  • There’s a hot tub scene 😍in the book too.
  • I think Peter K. is sweeter in the movie, but he was still adorable in the book.
  • I like that the movie added more bonding time between Lara Jean and her Dad.
  • Josh plays a bigger role in the book than he did in the movie. I actually liked that he was more present in the book. This is because I felt like I actually got to see why he was so important to Lara Jean and her family.