*I received this e-ARC in exchange or an honest review. A big thank you to St. Martin’s Press for giving me an opportunity to read The Project early!
I had heard so many amazing things about The Project by Courtney Summers that I couldn’t wait to start reading it. However, I think this was another case of Bookstagram overhyping a book for me that it didn’t really live up to the expectations it had set.
There are quite a few trigger warnings for this book: suicide, physical, emotional and mental abuse, child abuse (physical and sexual), and grooming.
The story in The Project is told from the perspectives of Lo and Bea, two sisters whose lives change dramatically following a car accident that kills both of their parents. Bea finds solace in a religious charity group lead by the charismatic Lev Warren, called The Unity Project. She soon cuts all ties with Lo, leaving her to heal from her physical and emotional injuries alone. Six years later, Lo is now working as a secretary for a magazine and is determined to find her sister and expose The Unity Project for what she believes is a cult. Her investigations lands her the story of a lifetime that could help jump start her writing career, while also finding answers about where her sister is.
The Project focuses a lot on trauma and how cults use people’s trauma and longing for community to recruit them to their cause. While reading it, I couldn’t help but think The Unity Project had a lot of similarities to some religious groups that operate in my city. It is not a fast-paced book, so readers like me who prefer a quicker plot might find themselves a little bored. I did have to stop about halfway through to go on to another book since it started to feel like I really had to force myself to read it at one point.
I do think a big part of what made this more of a challenging read for me in terms of keeping my attention was not being able to tell whether the random jumps and cuts to sections of the book were by design, or if it was just the ePUB being janky. In one sentence Lo will be in one place, talking to Cassey or Lev, and in literally the next sentence it’s another day in a completely different place. The sudden cuts made it a little jarring to read, and caused a little confusion in tracking time progression.
Overall, I did find this book to be an OK read and I really felt that the characters were well written, but this just wasn’t really the book for me. The Project comes out on February 2, 2021. You can pre-order it online from Chapters or your local bookseller.