Published February 2, 2021
About The Project
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.
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 leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members 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.
I could not stop reading this book. It’s super intense in all the best ways. And it seemed like with every chapter, the stakes only got higher. I really needed to know what would happen.
The beginning confused me a little bit. It begins with Bea’s point-of-view, told in third person present tense. Then alternates between her point-of-view and Lo’s (first person present tense), and once I got that far, I felt like I found a rhythm.
THE PROJECT has so many great things. I loved the juxtaposition of the zeal for writing news at SVO, the magazine where Lo works for a charismatic, energetic boss against the magnetic change-the-world attitude of the Unity Project. It felt like a sly contrast showing the difference between a cult and a passion project, if that makes sense??? And also a great way to show some important things about Lo’s character that make some of the events late in the story make sense.
So the Unity Project… at first I was a little creeped out because the leader uses a lot of bastardized Christian ideas (which some cults do, so it’s pretty real). As a Christian myself, it’s always icky to see something be twisted like that, but I felt like as the story went on, it was so clear that the Unity Project not only wasn’t preaching Christian doctrine, but wasn’t pretending to, either. For some reason that made a difference to me.
Anyway– Lo and Bea. Okay, so I’m a huge, ginormous fan of sister stories, and this one is no exception. I loved that their relationship wasn’t perfect, and that they always seemed kind of like seesaw sisters? You know, where one is up when the other is down, never really synced up with each other. But through the narrative, you see that they love one another and how their lives impact each other, even through the time they’re not close.
One note on age range: Though I think this is billed as young adult fiction and Lo is seventeen (I think Bea is in her early twenties), I’m not sure I’d put it on the shelf with YA. I think the themes and attitudes of the characters place it more solidly in a new adult age group.
On the whole, THE PROJECT pretty much swallowed me whole. I felt like I read it all wide-eyed, barely blinking because I didn’t want to stop reading even long enough for that! It’s got some heavy content, so please check that out, but if you enjoy darker suspense novels, this is a top notch one.
Recommended for Ages 18 up.
I think the major characters are white.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used fairly frequently.
Brief and longer descriptions of sexual contact between a boy and girl.
The leader of the Unity Project uses Bible verses to reference himself (as a stand-in for God or Jesus) and explain his actions. A Catholic priest offers help to Lo.
Violent Content – Trigger Warning for domestic abuse and torture.
References to domestic child abuse. Some references to and descriptions of torture.
Lo’s coworkers often meet after work at a bar, but she skips those gatherings because she’s underage.
Note: I received a free copy of THE PROJECT in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog.