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Teenreads Monthly Update

Late September 2015
September 24, 2015
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Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound Celebrates Banned Books Week

Hi Teenreaders!

Sunday, September 27th is going to be awesome, and not because it's “Crush a Can Day” or “Tourism Day” (although if you want take your angst out on an old Coke container or visit a new city, don’t let me stop you).

I’m excited about September 27th because it’s the beginning of one of the most important weeks of the year, book-wise: Banned Books Week! Ever since 1982, the American Library Association (ALA) has been “celebrating” this seven-day holiday to raise awareness for book censorship and the freedom to read.

You might think that “book-banning” sounds a bit archaic, but unfortunately, it’s an issue to this day. In 2014, 311 challenges were reported to the ALA, meaning that people raised complaints about the content of books. However, as Kristin Pekoll, the Assistant Director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom, reminded people who attended the recent Young to Publishing Group panel on Children’s Censorship, 85% of challenged books aren’t reported to the ALA. That means there were probably more than 2,000 challenges in 2014 --- whoa!

So, if you believe that people should be able to read what they want, do your part by participating in Banned Books Week. Here are some ideas:

  • Read some of the books on the Most Frequently Banned Books List: Here is 2014’s list, and if you scroll down, you'll see a list of the most commonly banned books since the year 2000. While you’ve probably read some of the books featured (THE HUNGER GAMES, anyone?), this is the chance to pick up a few of the others and see how wonderful they are (and what all the fuss is about).

    Personally, I just read two frequently banned YA novels that have been on my "To-Be-Read" list forever --- THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher and THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton. Are these soft-and-fuzzy books feel-good stories that make you want to wrap yourself in a blanket and “cheer” to the wonder that is adolescence? Well, no --- they deal with hard-hitting topics like suicide, class, violence, rape and tough family situations. They have some crass language and some dark scenes. However, they are also beautifully written, realistic, thoughtful tomes that made me think and feel. They got to the core of what teenagers across the country face on a day-to-day basis, and will be eye-opening to some and make others feel less alone.

    By reading great banned books and telling other people about them (like I just did), you’ll help get important stories into the hands of the teens who need them. You can also choose a book from our special Banned Books version of the Ultimate Reading List, which highlights the banned or challenged books we feature on our 2014 Ultimate Reading List of 400+ titles. There are 85 titles to choose from!
  • Participate in the Banned Books Week Read-Out: This is related to the suggestion above, but instead of just enjoying some frequently banned books and telling your friends about them, you can tell the whole country about them in a YouTube video! Or you can read a passage from one of the books, or talk about the importance of the freedom to read…the options are endless. For more information on how to participate, click here.
  • Attend a local Banned Books Week event --- or arrange your own! --- Check in with your local librarian or school librarian --- there’s a good chance that they’ve planned an awesome panel or event to raise awareness for Banned Books Week. If they haven’t, though, why not step up to the plate? You could plan a “Banned Book Exchange,” where friends swap their favorite frequently banned books, or maybe arrange a read-aloud at your school where teens take turns reading from their favorite banned books for a few hours. Or you could plan a party based around Banned Books --- decorate cupcakes with mockingjays from THE HUNGER GAMES and create a playlist based on Charlie’s favorite songs from THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.
  • And, of course, read our UnBan a Book Week feature! --- I know, I know, shameless plug. But seriously, Teenreads has planned a really cool feature for Banned Books Week, and it’s been going on for more than a week already! You’ll find more details in the next section, but essentially, a different YA author and Teen Board member answer questions about a frequently banned book every day. And when an author talks up a book, that’s when you know it’s really good.

Let me know how you celebrate Banned Books Week by emailing me at I’d love to hear!

Happy reading whatever you want,

--- Shara Zaval (

UnBan a Book Week

We mentioned this in the Early Teenreads newsletter, but we're thrilled that UnBan a Book Week (well, weeks) is officially underway! Banned Books Week is focusing on YA books this year because, as Judith Platt, chair of the Banned Books Week National Committee, said, “Young Adult books are challenged more frequently than any other type of book."

At Teenreads, we decided to play our part by celebrating 17 of the most frequently banned YA books, ranging from THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie to TTYL by Lauren Myracle. We asked one YA author and one or two Teen Board members to answer questions about the books that spoke most to them, and we're featuring their answers through Friday, October 9th. Below, see all of the books we've featured so far!

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie --- Sara Joiner (AFTER THE ASHES), Pranshu A. and Bryn D.
THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier --- Jo Knowles (READ BETWEEN THE LINES) and Chris C.
LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green --- Adi Alsaid (LET'S GET LOST, NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES), Rachel D. and Brynn S.
THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton--- Julie Chibbaro (INTO THE DANGEROUS WORLD), Maggie D. and Harleen K.
DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier --- Jenni Holm (SUNNY SIDE UP) and Megan B.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee--- Courtney Sheinmel (EDGEWATER) and Kate F.
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson --- Katelyn Detweiler (IMMACULATE) and Isabel C.


Click here to see our full UnBan a Book Week feature (so far!).

The Ultimate Reading List --- Banned Books Week Style

Every year, we update our Ultimate Reading List --- a list of more than 400 titles that we think make perfect pleasure reading for teens; books that are compelling, beautifully written, pure fun, thought-provoking or edge-of-your-seat gripping. Books that we would hand to someone and say, “read this!”

This year, to celebrate Banned Books Week, we made a special version of the Ultimate Reading List that only features books that have been banned in at least one school or library in the United States and it features 85 books --- that's more than a fifth of the whole list!

So, to celebrate Banned Books Week, be sure to check out one of the books featured on our list --- you won't be disappointed.


National Book Award for Young People's Literature: Long List Announced!

The National Book Awards are one of the biggest book awards in the country --- they celebrate works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and...dun dun dun...young people's literature written by American citizens and published by American publishers. While the Award Ceremony isn't until November, we're excited that the National Book Foundation just announced the long list for the Young People's Literature Award! The titles are listed below...have you read them?

To find out more about the titles and to see the long lists for every category, you can visit The National Book Foundation's website here.

Becky Albertalli, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Children's Books)
- Our reviewer Christa O. said, "Simon is probably one of the most realistic characters I have ever read."

M.T. Anderson, SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (Candlewick Press)
- Our reviewer George Leonidou called it "an amazing debut from an author capable of writing in a genuine and smart voice."

Ali Benjamin, THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Rae Carson, WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER (Greenwillow/HarperCollins Children's Books)
-Our reviewer Kate F. said it "will take the reader back to the times of highway robbers and wide open fields in a way that will make them yearn for the Wild West."

Gary Paulsen, THIS SIDE OF WILD: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)

Laura Ruby, BONE GAP (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Children's Books)
- Our reviewer Maggie L. called it "a fantastical tale that leaves you wishing it would continue beyond the last page."

Ilyasah Shabazz, with Kekla Magoon, X: A Novel (Candlewick Press)
- Our reviewer Aimee Rogers said, "the language itself spoke to me. It is not clear how Shabazz and Magoon divided the writing, but they make an incredible team."

Steve Sheinkin, MOST DANGEROUS: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children's Publishing Group)

Neal Shusterman, CHALLENGER DEEP (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Noelle Stevenson, NIMONA (HarperTeen/HarperCollins Children's Books)


Right-Brain Takeover: Arts and Crafts Bookshelf
With schoolwork piling up during the fall months, you might be feeling a little more tired and a little less inspired than usual. But don’t worry: we’ve got just the thing to de-stress your day and get your creative juices flowing again. Get ready for a right brain takeover with this arts and crafts bookshelf that’s sure to shake up your imagination!

We’ve gathered 20 interactive books packed with inventive ideas and DIY projects. Color yourself into a fairytale in Johanna Basford’s ENCHANTED FOREST: AN INKY QUEST & COLORING BOOK, or add flare to your daily fashion with NAIL CANDY by Donne and Ginny Geer. Whether you’re an experienced craftsperson or you simply want to try something new, these books will help you develop your inner artist.

Click here to see the Right Brain Takeover: Arts and Crafts Bookshelf!

Side by Side: Snow White
We all know the story: a jealous queen, a magic mirror, a girl with skin as white as snow and a collection of amusing but caring dwarfs. However, authors Alex Flinn and Donna Jo Napoli both spin the traditional Snow White tale on its head. Set in modern-day Miami, Flinn’s MIRRORED follows the beautiful Celine, her evil stepmother Violet and her best friend, Goose, who she eventually moves in with to get away from the family drama. Napoli’s DARK SHIMMER, on the other hand, takes place in ancient Venice and follows a mirror-maker named Dolce who has no idea that quicksilver has the power to drive her mad.

We asked these two talented authors about their research, their characters and what they’d do with their own magic mirror.

Click here to see the Side by Side!

Now in Stores: SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD by M.T. Anderson

SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson (History, Biography)

In September 1941, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history --— almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943–1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and --- eventually --- one another to stay alive. Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized and commemorated his fellow citizens --- the Leningrad Symphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory.

This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power --- and layered meaning --- of music in beleaguered lives.

Click here to learn more about the book.
Click here to read the review.


Now in Stores: WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER by Rae Carson

WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER by Rae Carson (Fantasy, Historical Fiction)

The first book in the Gold Seer follows Lee Westfall, a girl with a secret during the Gold Rush era in America. Lee can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home --- until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find safety?

Click here to learn more about the book.
Click here to read the review.


On the Blog

Aside from all of the awesome UnBan a Book Week blog posts, we have plenty going on on our Blog. Check out the latest posts below!

Guest Post by Allan Stratton --- Author of THE DOGS: Since memory and perception play such a big role in Stratton's eerie new thriller, we asked him to tell us about the ways that the mind alters reality to deal with trauma.

Q&A with Cindy Pon, Author of SERPENTINE --- Learn Pon's favorite place to write, the research that went into her novel, what she's reading now, and more!

2016 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Call for Submissions --- Are you in grades 7 - 12 and love visual art or writing? Check out this great opportunity to get your talent recognized!

Guest Post by Amy Fellner Dominy --- Author of A MATTER OF HEART --- Dominy talks about HCM, the real-life heart condition that her protagonist, Abby, discovers she has right before the Olympic swimming trials.

On Visiting Dennis Severs' House in London, Inspiration for THE MARVELS --- The Book Report Network's Advertising/Promotions Manager, Nicole Sherman, tells us what it was like to visit the stunning, time capsule-esque house that inspired Brian Selznick's newest book.

The Scorch Trials Movie Review --- Teen Board member Brynn S. tells us everything she loved --- and didn't love --- about the adaptation of James Dashner's bestselling novel.

Click here to read our blog!

Teen Board Update

Teen Board Question: Back to school means back to group projects! Sure you can work with your best friend or the smartest kid in your class, but wouldn't it be fun to choose partners from books? We certainly thought so. Therefore, we asked our Teen Board members to answer the following question: You get to be in a group with two characters from books (either the same book or different books) --- who would you choose to work with, and why? Our Teen Board members certainly thought of the perfect teams to get the task done --- all of these groups would get an A+. Vaishnavi S. chose to work with the intelligent Willow (COUNTING BY 7S) and Hermione (Harry Potter), while Bryn D. will be teaming up with the creative Karou (DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE) and Leo Valdez (Heroes of Olympus). See all of their answers here!

Reviews: Overall, our Teen Board members loved the novels they read in the past couple of weeks. Rachel D. said that the protagonist of EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon, Madeline, "has quickly become [her] favorite character in YA literature," while Brynn S loved I loved how Katherine Howe wrote THE APPEARANCE OF ANNIE VAN SINDEREN "from a filmmaker’s point of view --- the writing style seems to flow like an old movie." Read more in the review section towards the bottom of the newsletter!

Books on Screen
DVD releases are where it's at this month! We have the newest Cinderella remake, which stars a fantastic cast including Lily James and Helena Bonham Carter, out September 15th. There's also Pitch Perfect 2 with awesome musical numbers from your favorite tracks, releasing September 22nd. Also, the boys from the Glade are back in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, out in theaters September 18th!
Click here to read our September Books on Screen!

September's Cool and New Roundup
This month's roundup includes Leigh Bardugo’s SIX OF CROWS, which takes place in the same world as her earlier series The Grisha Trilogy and features six outcasts who attempt to pull off an impossible heist; THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Chris Riddell, a beautiful and dark reimagined fairy tale; and Ransom Riggs’ LIBRARY OF SOULS: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, in which Emma and Jacob are back and forced to stage the most dangerous of rescue missions.

In paperback titles this month, we have COLOR ME CREATIVE: Unlock Your Imagination by Kristina Webb, where the Instagram sensation shares her unique life story and introduces some activities that are sure to stimulate your creative juices; I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, which features artistic twins on a journey of first love, loss and betrayal; and MINOTAUR by Phillip Simpson, a retelling of a Greek myth of a half-beast, half-man creature and a labyrinth.

Click here to see September's Cool and New roundup!

Check Out Our Latest Reviews!

New! CHILD SOLDIER: When Boys and Girls are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys (Graphic Novel, History, Biography)

Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his schoolyard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

New! IRON RAILS, IRON MEN, AND THE RACE TO LINK THE NATION: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad by Martin W. Sandler (History)

It was the tens of thousands of workers who, against all odds and working almost entirely by hand, built the Transcontinental Railroad. They labored for more than six years blasting the longest tunnels that had ever been constructed, building the highest bridges that had ever been created, battling enormous snow drifts and blistering heat. And when the nation was finally linked by two bands of steel, America was changed forever. --- Reviewed by Maya Berman.

New! THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick (Historical Mystery, Youth Fiction)

Two seemingly unrelated stories --- one in words, the other in pictures --- come together with spellbinding synergy. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries. --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

New! EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon (Youth Fiction, Romance)

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations and more. --- Reviewed by Rachel D., Teen Board member.

New! ANOTHER DAY by David Levithan (Youth Fiction, Romance)

One day, everything changes for Rhiannon; Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time and they share a perfect day --- a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all. --- Reviewed by Rachel D., Teen Board member.

New! THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS: A Novel by Anna-Marie McLemore (Youth Fiction, Fantasy)

Lace Paloma may be new to her family's show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it's a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace's life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees. --- Reviewed by Bryn D., Teen Board member.

New! DUMPLIN' by Julie Murphy (Youth Fiction, Humor)

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her All-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked...until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. --- Reviewed by Jeanna Michel.

New! ASH & BRAMBLE by Sarah Prineas (Romance, Fantasy)

The tale of "Cinderella" has been retold countless times. But what you know is not the true story. Sarah Prineas’s bold fairy-tale retelling is a dark and captivating world where swords are more fitting than slippers, young shoemakers are just as striking as princes and a heroine is more than ready to rescue herself before the clock strikes midnight. --- Reviewed by Sally Tibbetts.

New! THE APPEARANCE OF ANNIE VAN SINDEREN by Katherine Howe (Historical Fiction, Supernatural)

It’s July in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie. As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose-petal lips and her entrancing glow. There’s just something about her that he can’t put his finger on, something faraway and otherworldly that compels him to fall even deeper. --- Reviewed by Brynn S., Teen Board member.

New! JILLIAN CADE: (Fake) Paranormal Investigator by Jen Klein (Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery)

Jillian Cade doesn’t believe in the paranormal, unlike her famous father, a professor and expert on the occult. Ever since he abandoned her to travel the world for “research,” she’s milked his reputation --- and all the suckers who believe in the stuff --- by taking over his private investigation firm. After all, a high school junior has to take care of herself, especially when she’s on her own. --- Reviewed by Isabel C., Teen Board member.

New! VENGEANCE ROAD by Erin Bowman (Fiction, Western)

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the 18-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate. --- Reviewed by Patrick C., Teen Board member.

New! NIGHTFALL by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (Horror, Science Fiction)

On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every 24 hours --- it comes every 28 years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long. Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night. But what happens when three teens get left behind?--- Reviewed by Laura T., Teen Board member.

New! THE SCORPION RULES by Erin Bow (Science Fiction, Dystopian)

In the future, the UN has brought back an ancient way to keep the peace. The children of world leaders are held hostage --- if a war begins, they pay with their lives. The system has worked for centuries; parents don’t want to see their children murdered. Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to mete out punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed...unless Greta can think of a way to save them. --- Reviewed by Alyssa L., Teen Board member.

New! I CRAWL THROUGH IT by A.S. King (Fiction, Surrealism, Social & Family Issues)

Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening. --- Reviewed by Matthew Mastricova.

New! THE FALL by James Preller (Social Issues, Fiction)

As Sam explores the events leading up to the tragedy, he must face a difficult and life-changing question: Why did he keep his friendship with Morgan a secret? And could he have done something --- anything --- to prevent her final actions? --- Reviewed by Hasnah Farraj.

New! THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell (Picture Book, Fairy Tale, Fantasy)

In this captivating and darkly funny tale, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell have twisted together the familiar and the new as well as the beautiful and the wicked to tell a brilliant version of "Snow White's" (sort of) and "Sleeping Beauty's" (almost) stories. This story was originally published (without illustrations) in RAGS & BONES (Little, Brown, 2013), and this is the first time it is being published as an illustrated, stand-alone edition. --- Reviewed by Rebecca Czochor.


September Poll

September’s here and it’s back to the classroom! What memorable YA protagonist best describes your school personality?:

Charlie from THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky: You’re the quiet sort of intellectual that people don’t always notice, but that doesn’t faze you. When you finally come out of your shell, it’ll be worth it for an experience you’ll never forget.

Georgia Nicolson from ANGUS, THONGS AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING by Louise Rennison: Everything about your high school experience screams awkward, but it’s okay --- your friends will have a million funny stories to laugh about later.

Andrew Wiggin from ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card: You’re a tech whiz and proud of it, spending your afternoons playing video games and still somehow managing to do well in all your classes.

Felton Reinstein from STUPID FAST by Geoff Herbach: Your life revolves around sports --- living for the game keeps you sane.

Hermione Granger from HARRY POTTER: You are the smartest kid in school and you’re not afraid to show it. Getting great grades and eventually getting into a great college --- that’s what high school’s all about

Sam in BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver: You are the popular queen bee at your school, but (at least after that dramatic accident) you’ve learned that bullying and cruelty are not the ways to use your power

Last month, we wanted to know which genre you are most likely reading by the pool. The majority of our readers (34%) allowed epic fantasy to whisk them away to a new universe. Romance came in at a close second, though (31%) --- it's called "summer love" for a reason! To see all the results from the August poll, click here.

Click here to take our poll!

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