OH – this book swept me away with its creepy and captivating story! I, like the rest of my millennial friends, have a weakness for true crime podcasts and a (probably unhealthy) fascination with cults; however, it rarely crosses over into my TBR pile, and then voilà! The Project fulfills all my needs. Courtney Summers knows just how to enthrall readers into just how twisted The Unity Project is (or not!).
We meet Bea first, an older sister who from the beginning has been enchanted with her younger sister Lo. However, everything changes for the sisters when Lo and the girls’ parents are in a car accident. While Lo survives, her parents do not which rocks the teen sisters’ world. While Bea scrambles to grieve her parents’ deaths and cope with Lo’s traumatic injuries she is pulled into the world of Lev Warren, leader of The Unity Project. Ultimately the car crash and Bea’s decision to join The Unity Project completely derails both girls’ lives and sets them on a dark and twisted journey.
The book alternates between the present day and the time following the car crash. The POVs are split between Bea and Lo and see both of the journeys that lead them (albeit separately to The Unity Project). I really enjoyed how the story is told in alternating perspectives of the sisters as both women are so very different in their struggles and how they are equipped to handle them, but ultimately both paths lead to Lev and his church. Showing the two perspective journeys against each other really highlights how predators change tactics depending on what the person responds to. Maybe to isolate their victim they use emotional warfare, but for another physical control is much more vital. People who fall victim to cult-like experiences have such a wide range of encounters, often making it hard to recognize a pattern of abuse early.
This story is so poignant and relevant in its time and truly highlights just how manipulative strong leaders can be and the lengths they will go to gain a following. How even with the best intentions, plans can go astray and be perverted into something else entirely. Throughout the series I found myself following the mindset of some of the characters and saying things along the lines of “Maybe it’s not true? Maybe all the accusations are a misunderstanding?”. Which is the mark of a great writer and a well-formulated book.
While this is my first Courtney Summers book, it absolutely won’t be my last. I look forward to chasing the feeling I had while reading The Project and Courtney has been quickly added to my ‘must-read’ authors list!