21 September, 2021

[Review] The Project by Courtney Summers


Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series or Stand Alone:
Stand Alone
Release Date: 2 February, 2021
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Genre: Young Adult/Thriller
Edition: Audiobook (also available in Hardback and eBook)
Review Written: 29 July, 2021
Warnings: Physical abuse, Emotional abuse, Torture, Toxic relationship, Death of parent, Car accident, Suicide, Grief, Death, Medical trauma, Medical content, Murder, Child abuse, Violence, Pregnancy, Body horror, Confinement, Domestic abuse, Religious bigotry, Blood, Adult/minor relationship, Cursing, Infidelity, Panic attacks/disorders, Mental illness, Miscarriage, Sexual content, Suicidal thoughts, Stalking, Suicide attempt, Gaslighting, Abandonment, Gore, Infertility, Self harm, Forced institutionalization, Kidnapping, Cults

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 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.


See more by Courtney Summers at her website.This book was annoying. There's no other way for me to say it. It was repetitive, whiny, and mildly annoying. That said, I'm also in my early 30s and so jaded that I feel like most things with followings could be considered cults.

The Unity Project is a project started by Lev Warren, a self-proclaimed prophet who claims to be able to heal people. And at least once, he's claimed to have brought people back from the brink of death. In exchange for saving Lo Denham, he entices her sister Bea (a 16 year old who has just lost both her parents in the car crash that injured her sister Lo) to join him in The Project. It starts slowly at first, but soon enough Lev has isolated Bea from what remains of her family, claiming that Lo is holding her back from her purpose of preaching to the world.

Over the next few years, Lo fights with the Project trying to reach Bea. And Bea continues to become more and more isolated within the Project, being singled out by Lev as "his girl" (never mind the fact that he's in his late 20s when they meet and promptly begins a relationship with a minor). She regularly suffers at his hand when she does things "wrong" as do all of the inner circle. Lev could rightly be compared to Jim Jones in his efforts to create a "utopia" of his own design and to be the leader over it. Things go astray when Bea sleeps with a different member of the community and ends up pregnant by a man name Foster.

The story bounces back and forth between the past and the present, trying to make the sisters stories meet in the middle. Lo with her determination to prove that the Unity Project isn't everything it claims, and Bea finally realizing that this is not the life she wants for her or her daughter. Unfortunately there's no happy ending for Bea, and Lo nearly gets dragged under due to Lev's charismatic personality.

Honestly, while this story is probably meant to be just a good mystery, it felt like it was trying to make the readers sympathize with Lev Warren. And darlin', I'm just not feeling it. Cults are bad kids, steer away from them.

Unfortunately, this book has left a poor taste in my mouth and I don't see myself picking up another of Ms. Summers's books again.

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