Here's something you may not know about me: I'm fascinated by cults. I've probably watched most of the cult docos there are available on Netflix and am always eager to read books set in and around cults. So this book sounded right up my alley, not only because it deals with a cult, but because it's by Courtney Summers who is one of my must-read authors.
I found this book in the YA section of the library, but I'm not entirely sure it is YA. It takes place over several time periods, jumping back and forth from one to another seamlessly, but in the present day, the book's narrator is 19 and working for a magazine. 19 is not far outside the traditional YA age-range, but it's getting up there, and some of the content in this book felt like it might sit more comfortably in an adult book.
But look who's talking.... My own books often seem to fit into this grey area too.
The main character, Lo, is alone. Her parents died in a terrible car wreck that left her critically injured. While she was recovering in hospital, her sister Bea visited less and less, eventually disappearing to join the secretive community known as the Unity Project. Ever since leaving the hospital, Lo has tried to re-connect to her sister to no avail.
Now Lo is working for a magazine and desperate to prove herself to the manager who hired her as an assistant. She's a writer and is certain she has something more to offer the magazine than organising the boss' appointments and bringing him coffee and lunch. When she manages to finally get access to the Unity Project, she's certain that not only will she and Bea reunite, but she'll scoop the story of a lifetime for the magazine.
But as she gets closer to the community and its charismatic leader, Lev, Bea is still elusive. As she digs deeper, the community begins to reveal its dark side and Lo realises finding Bea is not her only problem. In fact, if she doesn't stop digging into the Unity Project, her life might be in danger,
I really enjoyed this book. There are plenty of twists and turns and the tension ratchets up from page to page. It would be easy to dislike Bea for abandoning her sister while she was recovering, but because sections of the book are told through Bea's eyes, we get a real sense of the trauma she is going through as a result of the accident and the associated guilt and pain. It is easy to see how, at this low point in her life, she might be vulnerable to what Lev has to offer.
It's also easy to understand Lo's anger at Bea for leaving her, and her desperation to reconnect even when Bea refuses to speak to her. And it is this that drives her to pursue the Unity Project and to uncover whatever dark and dirty secrets she is certain they conceal.
I don't think you need to be as into cults as I am to enjoy this book. I think anyone who likes a good thriller with lots of twists and unexpected turns will like it as much as I did.
But don't just listen to me. Here's the blurb:
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died in a tragic car accident, her sister Bea joined the elusive community called The Unity Project, leaving Lo to fend for herself. Desperate not to lose the only family she has left, Lo has spent the last six years trying to reconnect with Bea, only to be met with radio silence.
When Lo’s given the perfect opportunity to gain access to Bea’s reclusive life, she thinks they’re finally going to be reunited. But it’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t want to be found, and as Lo delves deeper into The Project and its charismatic leader, she begins to realize that there’s more at risk than just her relationship with Bea: her very life might be in danger.
As she uncovers more questions than answers at each turn, everything Lo thought she knew about herself, her sister, and the world is upended. One thing doesn’t change, though, and that’s what keeps her going: Bea needs her, and Lo will do anything to save her.
From Courtney Summers, the New York Times bestselling author of the 2019 Edgar Award Winner and breakout hit Sadie, comes her electrifying follow-up—a suspenseful, pulls-no-punches story about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister no matter the cost.