Summary and book reviews of The Project by Courtney Summers

The Project

by Courtney Summers

The Project by Courtney Summers X
The Project by Courtney Summers
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  • Published:
    Feb 2021, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Book Summary

From Courtney Summers, the New York Times bestselling author of the 2019 Edgar Award Winner and breakout hit, Sadie, comes a sensational follow-up -- another pulls-no-punches thriller about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister from a cult.

"The Unity Project saved my life."

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.

"The Unity Project murdered my son."

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.

Welcome to The Unity Project.

SEPTEMBER 2017

I woke to the promise of a storm. It wasn't in the air but I felt it in my bones. Sunlight edged the corners of my covered window and if I'd told anyone to pack an umbrella, they would have told me I was crazy because when I threw the curtains wide, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. But my body never lies and by the time I get to the train station, it's raining.

"Damn."

I slowly raise my eyes from my lap, unclenching my fingers from fists. My cab driver is leaned forward, staring through the windshield at the dark gray shroud overhead. I dig my wallet out of my pocket and fumble for some bills, passing them over the seat before getting out. The first few drops of rain land cold against my skin and the downpour starts in earnest the moment I'm safely through the automatic doors. I turn to watch the people who didn't get so lucky as they scramble for cover.

"Fuck's sake," a woman mutters as she fumbles in, drenched, dragging two miserable toddlers alongside her, a boy and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 — that she should have perhaps leaned into a bit more. The result is a 19-year-old narrator dealing with a 30-year-old's problems. 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...continued

Full Review Members Only (566 words).

(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

Shelf Awareness
In this compelling and absorbing YA novel, two sisters make the most painful of choices based on their love for one another.

Publishers Weekly
Alternating Lo and Bea's viewpoints and moving around in time, Summers makes effective use of each character's limited knowledge, creating a twisty plot that's full of hooks.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The beauty of the story lies in its focus on the downtrodden, the vulnerable, and the earnest, expressed with an enormous amount of empathy...A powerful, suspenseful, and heartbreaking thriller about identity, sisterhood, and belonging.

School Library Journal (starred review)
Summers creates and sustains almost unbearable tension, exploring sacrifice, loss, forgiveness, miracles, surrender, grief, and lies...A gripping, flawless psychological thriller ready to leave readers shattered.

Booklist (starred review)
[A] deeply disconcerting investigative thriller that seems unassuming but worms under the skin and into the mind...Winding questions of faith and sacrifice into an already fibrous plot, Summers presents a rich offering that lingers even as it shocks.

Author Blurb Melissa Albert, New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood Series
This book is brave and raw and exciting and wise—wise about girls and women, weakness and strength, and the bittersweet beauty of being human.

Author Blurb Somaiya Daud, international bestselling author of Mirage and Court of Lions
Masterful and devastating. The Project welcomes you into its world with the warmth of a minister and peels back the psychology of its characters—joiners and questioners alike—with a precision only Courtney Summers is capable of. Trust me: there is no flaw in The Project.

Author Blurb Maurene Goo, author of Somewhere Only We Know and The Way You Make Me Feel
Courtney Summers has done it again: Broke my heart and pieced it back together in unexpected ways. The Project is a beautiful, thrilling testament to love. It takes a compelling deep dive into what makes people want to belong and you'll leave it gasping for air. This book is a baptism for your soul.

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Beyond the Book

Cult Psychology

When Prophecy Fails book coverCults are often difficult to identify from the outside, given that a common characteristic is members' denial that any dysfunctional elements are at play within their community. Many countries, including the U.S., do not have a legal definition, but prefer to use a series of criteria. However, a sort of colloquial understanding is more easily agreed upon: a cult is a group bound together by veneration for an ideal — often religious, and often represented by an individual figure who emerges as the cult leader.

The question of why people are drawn into cults has been a source of fascination for decades. One of the first psychological studies conducted on cults was by social psychologist Leon Festinger and colleagues. They researched ...

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