The Project by Courtney Summers #bookreview #YA #suspense #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.

The last book I read about cults featured the Manson Family, so it’s been a while. The way Charles Manson convinced people to follow him was disturbing and horrific, but also eerily intriguing. The cult in this book isn’t that extreme (thankfully), but there are still some similarities.

I like the way this story is contructed. Alternating between Bea’s and Lo’s perspective along with chapters from the past and present, the pieces of the puzzle gradually form a complete picture by the end – and it may not be what you expect. The Project has a different effect on both sisters, and their bond is demonstrated early and plays an important part of the plot.

The Unity Project initially sounds like a legitimate organization that does charitable work and community outreach. No one has been able to prove otherwise so far, and most of their members are unaware of the truth. It’s easy to see how they’ve won over so many folks. Lev Warren, their leader, is charismatic, empathetic, and knows exactly what to say to get into a person’s head. He preys upon those who are lost, vulnerable, and searching for something to cling to, a purpose. It’s hard to disagree with a lot of what he says – and that’s kind of unnerving. It’s nearly terrifying how quickly he is able to influence others.

As Lo investigates The Project and pushes for a reunion with her sister, she finds herself unsure of what or who to believe. Although determined to discover the truth behind the organization, she wasn’t exactly on sure footing before meeting Lev Warren, and he seems to understand her like no one else she’s ever met. And he takes advantage of this.

After a bit of a slow start, this book grabbed me, and putting it down wasn’t an option. I had to see what happened next. Parts of it are very emotional and ripped my heart out, so be prepared. It’s a compelling, addictive read you’ll still be thinking about days after finishing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.