Author – Courtney Summers
Publisher – Wednesday Books
Publish Date – 2nd Feb 2021
Genre – YA Thriller / Mystery
Pages – 352
After the death of her parents, Lo Denham returns from the brink of death only to be abandoned by her big sister Bea for The Unity Project. A charitable group with a pristine reputation under the leadership of Lev Warren who claims to be doing the work of God. Lo, still desperate to reunite with her sister years later, knows there’s more to them and while the suspicion of cult hangs around the group no one has managed to expose them, including Lo. Until Lo is confronted by a man, whose son was in The Project, tells her he believes they were responsible for his death. Can Lo expose The Project and reunite with her sister or will everything she thought she knew be entirely shaken and altered?
Courtney Summers has a knack for writing harsh realities and settings for young adult characters. Lo has nothing, no parents, no family, a love of writing but no opportunity. Her face is scarred from her accident. She’s still traumatised by the events of her accident and avoids driving as a result. She is broken, hardened and a determined risk taker. Bea was vulnerable and devastated. The project is themed around loss, grief, vulnerability and how that is exactly the tool a cult, like The Unity Project, can use to hook you in while you’re trying to find an anchor to yourself and the world around you. Bea and Lo’s grief is visceral which is exactly what Lev preys on. He’s enigmatic, empathic and convincing. I could even understand the draw to him.
The story is layered and well written. The POV switch from past to present, Bea to Lo, is powerfully stirring, intriguing and at times tense. A constant sense of sinking hovers throughout the story as it discusses characters who are dealing with abandonment, death, suicide, abuse and murder.
However, there was no real mystery or twist for me. The cult is obviously a cult and Bea, for me, was obviously dead. Lo was obviously vulnerable and was going to fall into the same trap as Bea. I had hoped there would be more but the book is very much what you see is what you get.
3/5 – An emotionally heavy journey and a convincing portrayal of an enigmatic cult leader.