The Project

A Novel

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Pub Date 02 Feb 2021 | Archive Date 16 Feb 2021
St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books

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The Project is a pulls-no-punches story from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award winning author Courtney Summers, about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister no matter the cost.

The #1 Indie Next Pick and winner of the International Thriller Writers Award.


1998: Six-year-old Bea doesn’t want a sister but everything changes when Lo is born early. Small and frail, Lo needs someone to look out for her. Having a sister is a promise, Mom says—one Bea’s determined not to break.

2011: A car wreck, their parents dead. Lo would’ve died too if not for Lev Warren, the charismatic leader of The Unity Project. He’s going to change the world and after he saves Lo’s life, Bea wants to commit to his extraordinary calling. Lev promises a place for the girls in the project, where no harm will ever come to them again . . . if Bea proves herself to him first.

2017: Lo doesn’t know why Bea abandoned her for The Unity Project after the accident, but she never forgot what Bea said the last time they spoke: We’ll see each other again. Six years later, Lo is invited to witness the group’s workings, meet with Lev, and—she hopes—finally reconnect with her sister. But Bea is long gone, and the only one who seems to understand the depths of this betrayal is Lev. If it’s family Lo wants, he can make her a new promise . . . if she proves herself to him first.

Powerful, suspenseful and heartbreaking, The Project follows two sisters who fall prey to the same cult leaderand their desperate fight back to one another.

The Project is a pulls-no-punches story from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award winning author Courtney Summers, about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister no matter the...

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ISBN 9781250105738
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Featured Reviews


The Project will go down as another massive success in Courtney Summers' writing career, and I can't wait to watch it happen. Teens and adults will devour this thriller, and they will demand more.

Aspiring journalist and nineteen-year-old Lo works as an assistant for a prestigious news outlet. She'll never be more than an assistant... Unless she manages to scoop an exclusive expose. When she witnesses a gruesome suicide connected to The Unity Project, she becomes pulled back into a world she thought she'd never be able to return to.

Lo's older sister Bea, has been part of The Unity Project for years. And Lo hasn't heard from her since. Lo knows The Project is more than meets the eye: it's not just acts of service and inspirational sermons. It's a cult. When the leader grants Lo exclusive access to The Project for a profile article, she accepts. But Lo finds more answers than she was looking for, and things become more personal than she ever expected.

The dual point of view (POV) works as masterfully as it did in Sadie. The POV always swaps just before you're ready, leaving you constantly yearning for just a little more information. Lo's POV is written in a raw, speedy first person style, while Bea's, still intimate to the extreme, is a more lyrical and removed third person. Summers lets you know a twist is coming, but makes you pray that you're wrong.

Courtney Summers' writing reminds me of another clever Canadian author's style: Emily St. John Mandel. Both are able to intertwine multiple perspectives with sudden poetics, and just enough description so that the story plays like a movie in your head. Plus they've both written about cults, so that helps.

Summers is an author to watch, an author to celebrate, and an author to be terrified of. Because she will destroy you.

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Another knockout from Courtney Summers. As usual, a must-buy for all public YA and HS fiction collections.

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Courtney Summers lives up to her reputation of being a thrilling storyteller! The Project had me at the edge of my seat and, at times,I felt as if I, myself, was being lured into the cult. I loved how the alternating timelines built up suspense without slowing down the pace of the story. i will definitely be recommending this one to fans of YA thrillers.

Thank you for the opportunity to read and review!

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5 stars

I keep a very careful and detailed spreadsheet of all of my arcs, and next month is a busy time for publication, but there was NO chance I was going to let this one sit in its place waiting to be read. I started it only a few hours after approval, and I could not put it down (minus, you know, having to work...but I still thought about this book the whole time).

This is my sixth Courtney Summers book. I've liked all of them - REALLY liked most of them - but this one is on another level.

The narrative follows a timeline that spans quite a few years and jumps around a bit, and while I found that moderately challenging at first, this structure helps to set the scene for Bea and her younger sister (Lo), the incredible trauma they both experience within their immediate family, and the truly unexpected paths their lives are following in present day. Both characters are largely shaped by their traumas but in a way that is riveting and authentic and not gratuitous. These traumas help explain their unusual relationships to each other, with other people, and...with a cult. While I found parts of the first half of the novel to be a bit slow, once details begin falling into place, the pace picks up and never relents.

In so many ways, this novel centers on the pain of being alone in the company of others ("Remember what it was like to be around others?!" I wonder as I write this review in July of 2020...). But it is also a deep dive into resilience and agency and unconditional love; that's where the magic really happens.

This is some tough subject matter but well worth the struggle -

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I finished THE PROJECT around midnight, but there was no sleep for me after that. This book will be in my head for a very long time.

I'm a huge fan of Courtney Summers - Sadie broke me wide open and I still feel that. So I expected to be destroyed by this book - maybe I even wanted to be destroyed. But I still wasn't ready for this.

There are no words to describe the writing here - I was lost in this book from the first page. I could feel what it would be like to experiencing the things Lo was experiencing, and while I thought I was one step ahead of her as far as knowing what was going on - I was wrong. More than that, this book really did make me question things I thought I knew about myself, things I thought I understood about myself. Just when I thought I felt safe and secure, the real horror began, the part no one can see until it's too late. This book pulled me in like a current.

I can say that I loved it, but it I can also say it is disturbing and intense and frightening, partly because it is so honest that it's too close for comfort.

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*I was given this e-arc by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.*

I was so pumped that I was granted access to Courtney Summers new book 'The Project'! And does it live up to Summers reputation? Hell yeah it does, and more! You will not want to miss this thrilling, mind blowing novel!

"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.”

Uh, yeah. Kick butt synopsis right? And the book delivers! I'm not going to say to much, I don't want to risk spoiling anything for you, but the characters and even the situation are believable. This “cult” is not like your average cults in other Thriller novels.
The whole book is incredibly well written and I think very thoroughly researched by the author. She had to have sought out many different sects of cults to create one that's her own. One that is convincing and authentic.
I did have some issues with the past and present transitions. It muddled the story for me a bit.
Our main character is a sympathetic one, but she has been through a lot and is also resilient, stubborn and bold.

Do yourself a favor- if you love an absolutely great, well written, and creative thriller, check this one out as soon as possible!

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I was lucky enough to be one of the first 500 NetGalley reviewers to receive a copy of Courtney Summer's new book The Project.

You may be thinking, "Courtney Summers, I know that name."
You definitely do, she wrote one of my all time favorite YA novels, Sadie.

Excuse my language, but holy shit this book took me on a trip.

The Project follows sister, Bea and Lo.
The book starts with their parents getting killed in a car accident; Lo is on the brink of death, and Bea just can't handle a world without her in it. Six years have passed since The Unity Project Leader, Lev, performed a miracle. Bea believes wholeheartedly that Lev brought her sister back from the dead, which begins her love affair with the cult.

Lo has never been the same since the accident. She's been trying to find a way to live through her words, that's why she wants to be a writer. She wants to leave a legacy. But more importantly, she wants her sister back. The Unity Project isolates members from their families, cuts them off from the outside world, and believes they have all been chosen by God, and handpicked by Lev.
This book was pure insanity because I felt myself becoming attached to the members of The Unity Project. There were times were I literally had to set my Kindle down and ask myself who the good guys really were. I had to digest that maybe The Project wasn't all bad, maybe Bea really did abandon her sister for a good cause. Maybe Lo understood that her regular life would never amount to a life within The Project. Maybe the bad guys are the good guys and the good guys are the bad guys. To read a story that really flipped the narrative was amazing.

Mark your calendars, The Project hits shelves February 2, 2021!

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Pamela K. Kinney, Author

Bea met her new baby sister, Lo, for the first time in the hospital, where the preemie baby is on a ventilator and in a see-through box. Her mother tells her back in the room for visitors, that she hopes that Bea will still have love for her and her father, because ‘Having a sister is a promise no one but the two of you can make—and no one but the two of you can break.’ The next time the reader see Bea and Loa is years later, and Lo is in a hospital again after Lo’s and their parents’ accident in their parents’ SUV, a ventilator attached to her again to help her breathe. It is when she goes to the hospital chapel and breaks down in front of the altar and cross, saying, ‘I’ll do anything,’ that Lev Warren, the charismatic and mysterious leader of The Unity Project, that strangely, Lo gets better after he sees the comatose young woman. And Bea joins the Unity Project at that moment, willing to do anything for Lev and the organization, leaving Lo alone and to their Great-Aunt Patty’s hands. Lo’s story begins later in September 2017, in first person POV, after she has left Patty’s home and has been working for Paul Tinsdale as his office at SVO Magazine, when a boy who says he knows her and jumps onto the tracks and is killed. And when the father of the boy in October tries to get Paul or someone to check out the Unity Project, saying Lev and they killed his son, that Lo begins to investigate, hoping to finally see her sister whom she hasn’t since before her accident. To prove that the project is a cult and not as prefect as it seems to be.

Heartrending and suspenseful, Courtney Summers pulls no punches with this haunting tale of one woman out to prove the truth behind a cult and find her sister. Alternating from a raw first person with Lo to third person in the past with Bea, this thriller sucks you in, delivering with scary, uncomfortable honesty.

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I’m a huge Courtney Summers fan, and I’m so happy to say this book did not disappoint. Summers’s propulsive, gritty storytelling grounds the fantastic plot. At each turn, you can feel yourself moving toward the inevitable end, unable to look away.

Lo Denham is many things: a survivor of the car crash that killed her parents, assistant to an upstart journalist, and younger sister to Bea. Though Lo has experienced a lot of trauma, it’s the final aspect that defines her story. Lo sets out to uncover the truth about the Unity Project, a religious cult that her sister joined following the death of their parents. Though Lo tried everything she could to maintain her relationship with her sister, Bea pulled away as she waded deeper into the Unity Project and became entangled with its leader, Lev.

When Lo witnesses the suicide of a Unity Project member, she reignites her efforts to find her sister and is granted unprecedented access to the group for an interview—one that Lo hopes will make her career. Told in dual perspectives, which made the twists in the story feel more abrupt, we follow Bea’s path into the Unity Project and Lo’s journey after her.

This book was wildly engrossing and atmospheric. I could feel the cold and rain seeping into my bones. I held my breath as Lo ventured closer to Lev in search of her sister. I highly recommend this to any of Courtney Summers’s fans!

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Only Courtney Summers could make a cult seem enticing. She really set the standards high here. The Project follows the path of hook, line, sinker that a person would go through if being drawn into a cult and BOY DID SHE CATCH ME. She did it so SMOOOOOOTHly too that I didn't realize I was drawn in until it was too late. Proceed with caution (ok, not really, don't take any caution, read read read read read read read read).

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Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the early review copy.

Things haven’t been great for Lo Denham since she survived the car wreck that killed her parents and her sister ran off to be in a cult. Every time she tries to establish a connection with her sister, Bea, the Unity Project shuts her down. Its charismatic leader, Lev Warren claims he was called by God to help rid the world of its sin through works. No one can find anything negative to say about this organization who helps so many, but witnessing the suicide of a young man in the Project will send Lo on a journey of discovery that will shake her to her core.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m fascinated by cults, and 90% of the time, I’m disappointed. I’m tired of cults that are just about dudes who want to have sex with and control a bunch of women. It’s boring. It’s tired. Do something else. So while I was initially excited by the premise of this book, I had my reservations as well, but I needn’t have worried. Summers does an excellent job with this book. I couldn’t put it down.

It’s mysterious without being a genre story. I loved the characterizations and the questions I asked myself while reading. The relationships between the characters are interesting, I found the way connections forge almost like secondary sources fascinating. I really like deeply flawed characters who are smart and misguided, and this book delivered! I didn’t know I needed to read this as I was climbing out of my reading slump, but I am so glad I did.

It’s not out until February, but I promise you, it’s worth the wait. When you’re deep in the winter blues, this won’t happily drag you out of them, but it’ll crawl down into them with you.

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When I finished this book I thought "I've already read over 350 pages?" It totally flew by. I also expected there to be an acknowledgment at the end about Courtney Summers experiences with a cult as it felt like she 100% experienced all this and knew what she was talking about. She made it so easy to believe the cult leader and think that maybe he was genuine. I loved Lo and hated her decisions at the same time. I pulled for her and for everything to work out for Lo. I think I liked this one even better than Sadie.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.

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Another wild ride from Courtney Summers! I love how Summers approaches a mystery by weaving in the story of the characters. Two sisters-separated after a tragic car crash that killed their parents. Lo is hospitalized for a long time and Bea meets the leader of a local group though to be a cult. Lev, the leader, comes to visit Lo and "saves" her further confirming Bea's belief in the Project. Fast forward to the present day, Lo is a reporter researching the Project and trying to locate her sister. This story is captivating and unique. Young adults and adults will love this book! Can't wait for more books by Courtney Summers!

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I’ve read books about cults before. They were terrifying yet intriguing. But after each read, I needed something a little lighter to clear my mind. Courtney Summer’s latest book had the same effect. I thought Sadie was her best work, but she surpassed my expectations with The Project. This story was told in different timelines by sisters Lo and Bea.

After suffering the loss of her parents in a car accident, Bea fervently prayed that her sister would survive that same accident and she would do whatever it took or was needed if someone answered her prayers. Lo survived and Bea fulfilled that promise. But it came with a price. All communication between the sisters stopped. They were no longer a part of each other’s lives, but the promise of always being sisters remained.

Bea was now part of The Unity Project led by the charismatic cult leader Lev. Before a cult member committed suicide in front of Lo, he whispered words to her. His words took Lo on a path to locate her sister…a path more dangerous than Lo thought possible.

Courtney Summers has a way of writing that demands your attention and doesn’t offer any respite. It felt like there was a cliffhanger of sorts at the end of each sister’s narrative. Then you read as fast as possible to get to the narrative’s continuing story only to find yourself in another riveting chapter ending. This captivating and engaging style of writing added to this intense storyline.

This was a very fast paced well written thriller.

An ARC was given for an honest review.

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And thanks to Courtney Summers for the new trRRaUmAAAaa! 🧚🏼💫 I would expect nothing less when Courtney puts out a new piece of work and this one just absolutely nailed it.

Bea and Lo are sisters and nothing for their family seems to come easy. Lo's entry to the world is hard, as a preemie fighting for her life, and Bea isn't quite ready to be a big sister. Eventually, Bea comes around and there are years of them building their sister bond, working on building the special secret place that their mom promised Bea when Lo was born. Then it all changes again when Bea's out being a wild teenager and her family gets in a car accident. Lo barely survives, and their parents don't. Lo's fighting for her life and Lo will do anything to save her. That's when she meets him.

Years later, Lo's working at a magazine and hasn't talked to her sister in years. But, it's a small word and it looks like there may be a storm brewing that would bring them back together again. Lo sees her chance and is prepared to take it but what if all isn't as it seems?

And then, what if the truths that revealed aren't exactly what they seem, either? Can anything be believed when it comes to The Project?

Another one-sitting read for me. 5 stars easy!

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Courtney Summers manages to up her game with every new book, and The Project was no exception. I've been reading Courtney's books for a decade and I'm so thrilled that she approaches every book as a new venture. From high school drama to zombies to cults, she isn't afraid to break away from what she's done before and try something new. The Project is a fascinating look into cults through the lens of two sisters told across two different times. The way Courtney threads the two stories together and explores the nature of cults works really well. I highly recommend The Project.

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Do you ever finish a book and just feel like the author punched you in the face?

Courtney Summers is so incredibly talented at making you care about her characters, who are raw and angry and lost in such compelling ways. Lo is a force of nature, and she's so steadfast in her pain, but I think the really beautiful work done here is her sister Bea: or rather, the absence of Bea. Lo's loss of her sister permeates every page, and Bea's refusal to reveal herself and explain what's going on is actively infuriating in the best possible way. You feel the way that Lo feels, and so every twist and turn (and there are MANY) feels like a personal offence to Lo and to the reader.

Just excellent. I'll be recommending this one like crazy.

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This book is a non-stop trip. Just like Sadie left you feeling slightly unbalanced throughout, this book does the same. The constant time jumps I would find annoying in other stories are part of the charm of this one--you need to have the story told in alternate past and present for it to make sense. I love the main characters, our narrating sisters, because I feel like they are both deeply flawed and it's refreshing to have heros that aren't super heroic. I also love the absolute creepiness of our main antagonist, Lev. He is disturbing in a David Koresh/Jim Jones/Ted Bundy kind of way. Charming but also terribly unsettling. I wish the ending had been just a bit clearer, but maybe it was also supposed to be unsettling? Or rather, unsettled? Summers is a talent that I think is underappreciated in the YA world. These books are very compelling for adult and teen readers alike. Although this one has several graphic depictions of sex, so maybe not the best for younger teens.

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