Book Review: The Project by Courtney Summers

Title: The Project

Author: Courtney Summers

Page Count: 352

Publication Date: 02/2021

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

It’s been a while but, you may want to get used to me saying that for a while. I’m currently navigating a job search and working on a lot of content for my clients. Both take up much of my time, so I don’t have much time to read, let alone write a blog post.

I’m carving out time in my schedule for this post because I mentioned the book in this post as one of my most anticipated 2021 books to read.

I wish I could say this book lived up to my expectations, but like most books I’ve read this year, it didn’t.

I’ve had a fascination with cults for as long as I remember. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, considering how destructive these organizations are. Still, like a car crash, I can’t turn away from any cultish content, including The Project by Courtney Summers.

The Project is about a girl who loves her sister. The girl in question? Lo Denham, an aspiring journalist, and a loner by choice. She’s left with no one after surviving the car crash that took both her parents. Bea, her older sister, joins a mysterious group called The Unity Project shortly after the collision, abandoning Lo at her most vulnerable.

Lo is determined to get her sister out by any means necessary, despite The Unity Project’s determination to keep them apart.

It takes one of their members’ death for a potential crack in The Unity Project’s foundation to reveal itself, and Lo sees an opportunity to get her sister back while furthering her journalism career. Lo doesn’t realize she’s playing with fire, and as answers lead to more questions, she realizes how little she knew of her sister’s life in The Unity Project.

The most important question is whether they’ll be united. The answer mildly shocked me, but I could see how it could be predictable to some.

Courtney Summers knows how to build good characters that stand on their own. I liked Lo a lot, and I found her story to be incredibly heartbreaking. I just wish I felt more of that from her throughout the book. It’s so clear she’s determined to get her sister back, and I absolutely felt the love between them, but there was so much more to be desired from Lo.

The Unity Project as an organization is a clear take on some of the more popular cults out there, making their structure believable to me. But this story took too long to get to the “bad stuff.” At one point, I found myself asking, “are they really that bad?” That’s how boring it initially came off, and it made it hard to understand why Lo had it out for them. Until I remembered they took her sister from her.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’ve watch too many cult docs and read too many cultish memoirs. But I hate to admit that I expected this book to be a bit darker and seedier.

I like, cringed just typing that because I don’t want to give the impression that I find the pain of others entertaining. But even as a YA book, it didn’t deliver on the thrill or suspense I associate with cults and that disappointed me. Plus, it took on a random turn that felt out of place for the story. I can’t disclose that because, spoilers.

This is not the best book about cults YA or not, but I do want to give Courtney Summers another chance. I actually own her book Sadie but never got around to reading it (story of my life), but I’m giving it a shot soon because I would like to like her as an author.

If you do want a YA cult read that’s super captivating, I recommend The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson. But this one, fell a bit flat.

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