Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

BookBrowse Reviews The Project by Courtney Summers

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Project

by Courtney Summers

The Project by Courtney Summers X
The Project by Courtney Summers
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2021, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 2023, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


In this suspenseful young adult novel, a 19-year-old aspiring journalist is determined to rescue her sister from the grip of a sinister cult.

Bea and Lo Denham are inseparable sisters until their parents die in a car crash that Lo narrowly survives. Bea, depressed and desperate after the accident, falls into the arms of The Unity Project, a religious community that embraces her as she abandons her sister to the care of their great aunt. Years later, alone in the world after the death of their aunt and working as a secretary for a prestigious journalist, 19-year-old Lo is determined to unmask The Unity Project for what she believes it to be: a cult that indoctrinated her unwitting sister.

Like Courtney Summers' previous young adult novel, the bestseller Sadie, The Project is strongly invested in a relationship between two sisters who have been torn apart by tragic circumstances. The novel opens with a prologue in which Bea witnesses the birth of her younger sister and is given the opportunity to name her. The narration then switches to Lo in the present day, but there are flashback chapters interspersed from Bea's perspective, narrating her early involvement with The Unity Project and its charismatic leader, Lev Warren. In the contemporary chapters, Lo resolves to write an exposé of The Unity Project, which no journalist to date has been able to prove is actually a cult. She hopes to rescue her sister while simultaneously proving herself at work to get promoted from secretary to staff writer.

The Project is an eerie, unsettling novel. The reader is drawn into Lev's charm along with Bea, but also into Lo's skepticism about the religious community he has built. This isn't the same sort of feverish page-turner as Sadie; it's a much more measured and contemplative book. The question of where Bea is haunts the novel, but otherwise, its mystery element is minimal. Instead, the novel concerns itself with broader questions of faith and trauma, and the often symbiotic relationship between the two. Lo's excavation of The Unity Project naturally does not quite go as planned: the closer she gets to Lev, the more she begins to doubt her own suspicions, and the reader follows her journey with a sort of muted horror.

The Project's weakest element is its uncertainty about its audience. Though ostensibly categorized as young adult with crossover appeal, the novel's themes and subject matter are perhaps better suited to an adult audience: teens can certainly read and enjoy this, but it's a marked departure for Summers — it's slower and quieter, its subject more mature — and perhaps she should have leaned into this a bit more. The result is a 19-year-old narrator dealing with problems that seem more typical for a woman in her 30s: namely dissatisfaction that her career isn't progressing at a good pace, which she confronts her boss about repeatedly and which he indulges, even though she was underqualified and under-experienced when she was hired. Where the young reader is meant to admire Lo for being headstrong and determined, to the adult reader she inadvertently comes off as immature in this element of the story. This effect could have been curbed if Lo had been written as several years older, working for the same prestigious company for the better part of a decade rather than merely a year.

Still, while this element occasionally detracts, on the whole it's an accomplished novel, and highly recommended to anyone interested in cult narratives or stories about familial loyalty and religious faith.

Reviewed by Rachel Hullett

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in March 2021, and has been updated for the November 2023 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Cult Psychology

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Project, try these:

  • I'm the Girl jacket

    I'm the Girl

    by Courtney Summers

    Published 2024

    About this book

    More by this author

    The next searing and groundbreaking queer young adult novel from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Courtney Summers.

  • Under This Red Rock jacket

    Under This Red Rock

    by Mindy McGinnis

    Published 2024

    About this book

    More by this author

    From award-winning author Mindy McGinnis comes a mesmerizing YA psychological mystery following a teen girl who is grappling with the death of her brother as she starts a new job in the caverns of Ohio—only to become the number one suspect in her coworker's murder. Perfect for fans of Courtney Summers and Kathleen Glasgow.

We have 8 read-alikes for The Project, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Courtney Summers
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Long After We Are Gone
    Long After We Are Gone
    by Terah Shelton Harris
    Terah Shelton Harris's marvelous family drama Long After We Are Gone begins with the death of the ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhibit
    Exhibit
    by R O. Kwon
    Exhibit, R.O. Kwon's sophomore novel (after The Incendiaries, 2018), introduces readers to Jin Han, ...
  • Book Jacket: Somehow
    Somehow
    by Anne Lamott
    Anne Lamott knows a thing or two about love. In fact, there is so much of it exuding from her essay ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Wings Upon Her Back
    by Samantha Mills
    Faith is a delicate thing. At its best, it can offer peace in times of crisis. At its worst, it can ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Long After We Are Gone
by Terah Shelton Harris
After their father's death, four siblings rally to save their family home in this gripping and hopeful tale.
Book Jacket
The Pecan Children
by Quinn Connor
Two sisters deeply tied to their small Southern town fight to break free of the darkness swallowing the land whole.
Win This Book
Win Bright and Tender Dark

Bright and Tender Dark by Joanna Pearson

A beautifully written, wire-taut debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A W in S C

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.