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.
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!