Category Archives: Teen

Where reviews done on teen books can be found.

Ruins by Dan Wells

Ruins

“It’s exactly like that,” said Marcus. “Nobody has a  . . . destiny. I mean, nobody has some kind of inescapable path for their life. This mud was made from clay, and that clay could have been anything at all until somebody made it into a mug. People aren’t mugs, we’re clay. Living, breathing, thinking, feeling clay, and we can shape ourselves into anything we want, and we keep shaping ourselves all our lives, getting better and better at whatever we want to be, and when we want to be something else we just smooth out the clay and start over. Your lack of ‘purpose’ is the single best thing about you, because it means you can be whatever you want.”

Ruins is the finishing touch in the Partials series and completes the story of Kira, Samm, Marcus and a world that is being ripped apart by prejudice and animosity. Despite traveling across the country, the cure only becomes clear to Kira when she willingly returns to the torture of Dr. Morgan’s lab. While Marcus and the remaining humans of East Meadows struggle to flee the oncoming threat of a nuclear storm, Samm and Heron remain in the colony where the truth first became clear to Kira; Partials allow human babies to survive and humans interaction eliminates the expiration date that will soon kill every last Partial in the country. The true challenge now is not discovering a cure but convincing both warring sides to forget the reasons they have killed each other for years and forgive the enemy for the sake of survival.

Wells touches on themes that must be prevalent in teens’ minds (and even adults, as they wonder about the future of the world their children will grow up in). As much as history and war has pitted Partials and humans against one another, ultimately they must co-exist to ensure the survival of both species. Applying that to our world is just as simple and certainly as necessary. Despite our different religions, economies, beliefs and goals, losing one branch of our global population would significantly affect all others in a truly damaging manner. Humanity, as a whole, is diverse and while these differences mark us as belonging to one group or another, civilization would suffer if one façade was completely wiped away. Turn on the TV or browse a website and you’ll see humans fighting and resisting one another. Wells world is the same and he does not paint it with a sparkly brush- he exposes war, fleeing fugitives and ethnic revenge as the destructive forces they can be. With teens becoming more and more aware of the uprisings in our societies, Wells does them justice by writing a book that reflects our world in a very authentic way but maintains the necessary distance to keep it from becoming an overly depressing read.

I enjoyed how Wells made heroes, small or large, out of so many of his characters and showed that mundane acts could be courageous when done for the well being of others. Kira and Samm are the most obvious but others rose to the occasion is unanticipated ways; Heron and her encounter with the Blood Man, Green and his refusal to give up, Ariel leading the ones she loves into the unknown for the sake of the new generation carried in their group.

The story also took turns that I didn’t expect. The entire under current story line of the “Blood Man” infused the story with some good ole’ mystery and kept you guessing right to the very end on how important his role may or may not be, and how it would come to fruition. It can certainly be pegged as a fast-paced story with major plot changes and events that keep you on your toes and wondering to what level Wells might elevate the story to next.

Wells does a great job of ending his series by tying up all the loose ends and completing the journies of his characters to satisfaction. Science, biology and evolution remain the focal points right to the very end and he never sways from touching on the destruction or triumphs they can foster.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Dan Wells: Partials (2013) and Fragments (2013)

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Allegiant by Veronica Roth

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“Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can’t escape that damage.

But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other.”

Veronica Roth’s Allegiant is, without a doubt, one of the most anticipated releases of 2013 for many teen and adult readers. It is also the conclusion to a series that has become exceedingly popular, birthing its own base of fans that will soon be treated to a movie rendition. Along with that comes a great deal of pressure, certainly for the author but for readers as well. Will the book conclude the series satisfactorily? How will the stories end for these much-beloved characters? The questions are endless and no matter what an author does, there will be readers who love it and others who don’t. After concluding Allegiant I feel that Roth ended the Divergent series with loyalty to her vision and its characters, as well as incorporating some ground-shaking surprises that kept the book exciting right to the very end.

Tris and Four, along with their former-Dauntless companions, are facing a new world. When a video reveals they are not alone in the world, they must decide if they will seek out unknown possibilities or stay in the only place they have ever known but which is dissolving into rebellion between the factionless and the Allegiant, those who wish to see the factions returned to their previous place of importance. When they do decide to leave they are welcomed into an organization that reveals that their city has been an experiment, an attempt to repair damaged genes and DNA. This ideal of damaged and pure genes will come to consume them and will eventually cause Four, always the sturdiest of the group, to question his self worth. When the survival of their former city becomes endangered Tris and Four, along with old and new alliances, will make a final stand against enemies inside and outside of the city, one that will only come to fruition through forgiveness and sacrifice.

I was one of those readers who was unsure how it would end, but I will say that after finishing Allegiant I believe Roth has done an admirable job of bringing such a popular series to its end. I had some issues with Insurgent (specifically that I had a hard time keeping track of the characters and what their purpose was in the story line, along with finding the story somewhat fractured) but none of those were present in Allegiant. All of the characters played crucial roles in the progression of the story. Four’s struggle was one of the more interesting evolutions to read. In Insurgent we watched Tris suffer from the aftermath of her actions, but the uncertainty Four experiences is of a completely different nature. Roth has turned the former dynamic on its head; Tris is the individual who is certain and unswayable, while this time around it is Four who questions his purpose. The tension between them is different than the previous novel, but it too stems from the changes in the environment around them.

One of the discussions I had with a friend was the change in narrative. Unlike the previous two books, parts of this story are told from Four’s point of view. At first it seems a little disjointed but by the end of the novel you can understand why Roth decided to take this route. It is also interesting to take into account that Roth published a short online novella about Four during the summer of 2013 and more will be coming in the near future. This might also explain why Roth made Four’s a voice a much more central aspect for this final installment.

Of the series, Divergent is still my favorite. I loved the factions, the way in which they structured society and placed characters in defined categories according to their strengths and values. I found the characters did the most developing in that book as well. However, I do admire how Roth ended her series, taking a route that I didn’t think she would and possibly risking upsetting a few readers in doing so. For that fact alone, I will say that Allegiant is a fitting finish to the Divergent series.

The Divergent series is often compared to or recommended to those who enjoyed the Hunger Games and while they are different, they do contain some of the same themes, emotions and challenges that have made both so popular with readers of all ages. Both are social commentaries in their own right and both declare that people, however willing or unwilling they may be, can make a difference. It’s a message worth relaying to teens and even adults. Allegiant concludes a thrilling series with a memorable ending and a lingering respect for the choices Roth has her characters make.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Veronica Roth: Divergent (2011) and Insurgent (2013)

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The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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“A secret is a strange thing.

There are three kinds of secrets. One is the sort everyone knows about, the sort you need to at least two people for. One to keep it. One to never know. The second is a harder kind of secret: one you keep from yourself. Every day, thousands of confessions are kept from their would-be confessors, none of these people knowing that their never-admitted secrets all boil down to the same three words: I am afraid.

And then there is the third kind of secret, the most hidden kind. A secret no one knows about. Perhaps it was known once, but was taken to the grave. Or maybe it is a useless mystery, arcane and lonely, unfound because no one ever looked for it.”

Maggie Stiefvater has quickly become one of my favorite authors, both within the Teen genre but also amongst authors in general. While she predominantly writes for the young adult audience, her writing is mature, elaborate and entrancing and the story lines she creates are addictive and so complex you can easily lose yourself in them. Her The Raven Boys was a truly enjoyable read and the most recent addition to the series, The Dream Thieves, made me love Stiefvater even more.

The ley line has been awoken and nothing is the same. The dynamic between Gansey’s group of friends has changed dramatically; Adam has become angry and withdrawn, Noah flutters in and out of existence, Blue’s role is becoming something much more personal and perhaps most importantly, Ronan’s secret is finally coming to light. Ronan has always been different, the self-proclaimed bad boy of the group, but even he is unaware of how powerful his mind is and how horrific the results of his dreams can be, especially when they cross the line of sleep and surge into reality. This skill is also gaining attention from strangers; a classmate will teach him the full extent of what he can create with his mind and a traveling murder man named Mr. Grey will begin a hunt to kill him and the power his mind possesses. Meanwhile, Cabeswater and the ley line is flickering, drained by some unknown force and Adam, being the closest with its mythical strength, will seek to heal it with the help of unlikely friend. When all of these elements surge together, Gansey will come one step closer to finding his lost King and Blue will lose the most important person to the very same forces that hide Gansey’s treasure.

There were numerous developments in The Dream Thieves that I loved, most of which centered on character development. It’s a point I have made before; so often in the teen genre the characters suffer for the sake of a fast-paced story line. However, Stiefvater walks that shaky line perfectly and the constant progression of her characters is hands down one of the greatest joys of this read. The first novel was very much about Gansey and Noah. The Dream Thieves focuses on Ronan and, to a lesser degree, Adam. I loved Adam in the first book and was unsure about Ronan. After finishing The Dream Thieves that opinion switched; now that I understand Ronan better he has become my favorite while Adam has slipped slightly in the hierarchy. I came to love everything about Ronan, especially when you are given glimpses through the rebel exterior (anyone who had read the chapter with the baby mouse will understand). Another highlight was how the physic women of the Sargent house play more influential and involved roles in this book. They all have their unique quirks and, especially in this book, seem to have specific roles to play in the search for the sleeping Welsh King.

Lastly (but certainly not least), the myth and history of the story remain just as strong as they were in the first novel. If the characters weren’t enough to keep you hooked, then the search for a magical woodland that is losing its power and the effort to gain control of the amazing (and horrific) creations birthed from dreams will certainly do the trick. Stiefvater knows how to tell a story that leaves you hanging at the end of every chapter, clinging to the possibilities she may weave in the next.

The second installment of a series can sometimes conclude with a certain sense of indecision, whether due to the change in the story’s direction or a sudden shift in character temperament, but neither of these are a concern with Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. As each book appears to focus on certain characters, hopefully the remaining two books (yes, it’s a cycle not a series) will give us a better understanding of Gansey, Blue and the vision that involves them both.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Maggie Stiefvater: Shiver (2010), Linger (2011), The Scorpio Races (2011), Forever (2012) and The Raven Boys (2012)

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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“More than anything, the journal wanted. It wanted more then it could hold, more than words could describe, more than diagrams could illustrate. Longing burst from the pages, in every frantic line and every hectic sketch and every dark-printed definition. There was something pained and melancholy about it.”

There are rare finds in the Teen genre where the writing, story line and characters are so breath-taking and fascinating that you forget what genre the novel actually belongs to. My list of those authors is quite short but Maggie Stiefvater holds one of those coveted (coveted in my mind, at least) spots. Her novel The Scorpio Races blew my mind and I read it within two days. The Raven Boys had much the same affect and, thankfully, it’s only the first in a trilogy so there will be plenty more Stiefvater goodness to be enjoyed.

Blue lives anything but a normal life. As the daughter of a physic, and living in a house full of other family and female friends who are also psychics, she has never doubted that the world is more complex then it seems. Oddly enough her power is not one of clairvoyance, but an ability to enhance and strengthen the magical powers of those around her. Gansey is a Raven Boy, one of many elite and socially privileged boys who attend nearby Aglionby Academy. Gansey too believes in the supernatural and along with his closest friends (Adam, the least privileged of the group, Ronan who is the rebel bad-boy and lastly Noah, a boy with secrets of his own) has been searching for a long lost Welsh King whom he believes is hidden in the countryside. Gansey is determined to follow the ley line (an invisible line of magical power) that runs through Henrietta to this sleeping King and Blue soon joins the hunt after the Raven Boys see her mother for a reading. However, Blue has her own reasons for befriending these boys. She knows a horrible secret; that one of those boys will be dead within the year and coupled with the premonition that she will cause the death of the first boy she falls in love with, she is determined to change fate.

This book has so many elements that I absolutely fell in love with. You put anything paranormal into a story and I am automatically intrigued. Combine that with some good old fashion Welsh history and I will hand over my first born (sorry first born). Stiefvater provides plenty of both and she wraps it nicely in her unique ability to weave a story with finesse.  The nature of the boys’ friendships is also a highlight of the novel. In many ways Stiefvater paints such a vivid picture of friendship that you can only smile and remember those unbreakable friendships you had as a teenager. Adult life tends to step in at some point but Stiefvater invokes that sense of loyalty between friends that we can all admire. They are each such immensely unique characters and yet that only makes their group dynamic even more intriguing, especially when Blue enters into the mix.

Another wonderful thing about Stiefvater is how complex, yet realistic, her characters are. You will find every notch on the scale in them; they’re flawed, hopeful, haunted, intelligent, aggressive, obsessive, caring. Each character has their own dreams and fears, stemming from individual backgrounds and experiences that create a truly extensive world of character development. Their stories are constantly being advanced and just when you feel you have a hold on a particular individual, you learn something new about them or Stiefvater throws in a sudden twist that completely demands you reset your understanding of that individual.

I know it’s safe to say for me that reading Stiefvater’s work is a truly encompassing experience as a reader. She is a truly talented writer and all of her literary tools and skills are put on display in The Raven Boys. Mystery, history and the unknown are complimented by elaborate characters and encased in a truly pleasant writing style. Of the books written by her, none have disappointed. The second installment, The Dream Thieves, was released on the 17th and I have already immersed myself in it. Resurfacing will no doubt come with the same sadness that it was over and the resulting eagerness for the next novel that I felt after completing The Raven Boys.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Maggie Stiefvater: Shiver (2010), Linger (2011), The Scorpio Races (2011) and Forever (2012)

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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“The tooth-traders who came to the shop were, with few exceptions, about the worst specimens of humanity had to offer. Through Brimstone did have a small coterie of long time associates who did not turn Karou’s stomach- such as the retired diamond dealer who had on a number of occasions posed as her grandmother to enroll her in schools- mostly they were a stinking, soul-dead lot with crescents of gore under their fingernails. They killed and maimed. They carried pliers in their pockets for extracting the teeth of the dead- and sometimes the living. Karou loathed them, and she was certainly better than them.

Brimstone said, “Prove that you are, by using wishes for good.” ”

Love, love, love. I fell in love with Daughter of Smoke and Bone by the end of the first chapter, maybe even the first few pages. Taylor has done an absolutely amazing job in creating a fascinating world of fantasy and lore that takes place in the familiar setting of the modern world.

Karou may be a little eccentric with her blue hair, tattoos and countless art books filled with sketches of creatures that are a mixture of animals and human but ultimately she seems to be a normal young woman. Or at least that’s what she portrays to everyone else but the truth is another matter. Karou has been raised by the very beasts in her sketchbooks including Brimstone, intimidating and horned, and Issa who is as much snake as she is human. She has a purpose of her own within this odd family; collecting the teeth of animals and humans for Brimstone. Magic has always been a part of her life but whereas the act of collecting teeth had never bothered her before, curiosity is now getting the best of her.  That very inquisitiveness soon turns her world upside down especially when she encounters Akiva, an emotionless angel, and learns that her family is from a race that has been fighting angels for centuries. Something about Karou pulls at Akiva, memories from a life he led long ago. They will both come to learn the truth together which cumulates in the revelation of a brutal betrayal that will change things forever.

The thing that struck me from the very beginning of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the maturity of the writing and contents. Being a teenager myself less than a decade ago I think I can say with some accuracy that it’s not often that writers truly give credit where it is due and create a story and characters that acknowledge the true depth that many teenagers want in a novel. However, Taylor has done just that. The writing is of a great caliber being both entertaining and imaginative. There is a love story, like most teen books, but it’s certainly not the typical telling and expands beyond the two individual involved. It’s an inventive retelling of Romeo and Juliet that takes place in a world of magic and fantastical proportions.

The fantasy of the novel is the other element of the book that I eagerly devoured. I have always been a fan of fantasy; I gobbled that genre up when I was a teenager though I more often than not found it in books that were actually in the fantasy section. While the setting of the book is a modern one, Taylor has also infused it with fantastical elements of magic and puts a really interesting twist on an age-old battle between good and evil. I can only take a small dose of religion at the best of times but thankfully while angels and the monsters they fight against are the two stables of the story’s lore, Taylor keeps her distance from preconceived notions of the two. Both side posses redeeming and destructive qualities, and it’s the telling of their stories that makes Daughter of Smoke and Bone so enthralling. I lost myself in the world of collecting teeth and a city caged by bars. The complexity of the two worlds and the profound realness of the characters easily launched this book to the top of my list of most-loved books read this year.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book that stands on its own and deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates a little bit of fantasy and an intricate storyline containing riveting characters and secrets that will leave you eager to read the next chapter. Its sequel Days of Blood and Starlight thankfully was available when I finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone and is sitting on my shelf. I eye it every now and then but like a good desert, I’m holding off and waiting for the right moment to submerge myself back into the mystical world created by Taylor, mostly because I don’t want the experience to be over too quickly. Books like Daughter of Smoke and Bone don’t come along too often and when they do, you never want them to end.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Laini Taylor: Dreamdark series (2007 and 2009), Lips Touch (2009) and Days of Blood and Starlight (2012)

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Taken by Erin Bowman

Taken

“Blaine being gone is kind of like when Ma died, only this time I’m alone for good. I spend the first few days forgetting his absence is permanent. I catch myself looking up from dinner, expecting to find him walking through the door. I feel him moving through the house behind me, but when I twist around, the room is desolate and cold.

About two weeks in, when it begins to feel real and I know he’s not returning. I break down for the first and only time.

Taken was one of those books that took me by surprise. While receiving good word of mouth since its release in April of 2013 I didn’t pick it up until recently. It some ways it reminded me a lot of the Hunger Games, maybe not the game part exactly, but the social change that became more evident in the later books is out in full force in Taken pretty much from the get go. It has a good pace and a story that has lots of potential.

Gray Weathersby is absolutely sure of two things; that he is terrified of losing his brother Blaine to the Heist and that his feelings for Emma, the daughter of the town’s medic, are of a deeper nature than the social expectations surrounding him normally allow someone to foster. Gray lives in a world that is primitive and simple in some ways and yet jarring and harsh in others. Every man disappears on the eve of their eighteenth birthday in Claysoot and so Gray knows that eventually he will be claimed too. Most have accepted this but some risk climbing the stone wall that encircles their community and nearby woodlands to try and escape it. They don’t fare any better however, for they always return as charred corpses. However, as Gray becomes closer to Emma and they begin digging into the past of Claysoot they make a shocking discovery that leads both of them over the wall. What they find is a world they didn’t know existed, including a war being waged between the leader of Taem and the supposed human-experimentalist Harvey Maldoon. Unfortunately, Gray will learn things on this side of the wall can be just as deceiving as they were inside of it.

Bowman certainly knows how to keep a reader hooked. The story plunges ahead and keeps the pace a non-stop ride. The characters are constantly thrown from one scenario into the next and new plot lines, including information essential to understanding the many twists and turns the characters are experiencing, are doled out at suitable intervals to keep the reader guessing, while still ensuring they don’t become frustrated with the constant changes. While this certainly makes for an exciting read, I think the development of the secondary characters may have suffered to keep the novel so fast paced. Gray is written wonderfully and his struggle and emotions can be felt through the words but the more notable secondary ones, while each having distinguishing characteristics, still came across as somewhat hollow and one-dimensional; Blaine is the perfect and well liked one, Emma the good girl but not really, Brie the girl who can hold her own with the boys. Hopefully this will be more of a focus in the second novel and Bowman will give us a better understanding of how the minds of these characters work.

I loved the original idea of Taken, a town that is slowly being depleted as the male population disappears. Bowman created a really interesting society that struggled to adapt to these unstoppable events while still trying to carry on with day to day life. I was a little disappointed that Gray and Emma leave Claysoot so early in the book but the twist at the end, which essentially reveals what the second book will be about, soothed me enough to let that particular downside go for now.

Overall I found Taken to be a fast-paced thriller of a read which left me hankering for the continuation of the story and which directions Bowman might take her characters, especially with the hinted promise of a forthcoming adventure that Bowman leaves her readers with at the conclusion. Thankfully Frozen, the second installment in the series, is due to come out in April of 2014. For those who enjoyed the danger and social upheaval of The Hunger Games series, this is one to read!

Devon – a1000booklife

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Rush by Eve Silver

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“How do you feel?” he asks again, forceful, insistent.
For some reason, I think of Tyrone and the way he seemed better down here, more focused, more – “Alive,” I whisper. It hits me. When I’m on a mission, I don’t feel the gray fog weighing down every thought, every action. “I feel alive and it’s a rush.”

Today’s entertainment is saturated with video games based on every storyline and theme you could come up with. It’s not overly surprising that an author has decided to take that form of entertainment and use it as the background for the common Teen survival story. Eve Silver has done just that with Rush.

Miki Jones knows death. Losing her mother to cancer has made her painfully familiar with it, but when she is complete unprepared when a fatal experience of her own brings her into a game of survival. It’s a game with a health bar and scores and bonus hits, and with a small team she fights an alien face called the Drau who is trying to take over the world. In the game she also meets Jackson Tate and he makes the danger and reality of the game somewhat bearable. But Miki will eventually learn the truth of this so-called game and come to realize it’s not what it seems to be. Firstly, some kind of higher power is controlling the game and deciding who gets pulled in to fight. Secondly, unlike the video games she is used to, when you die in this one you don’t magically come back to life. Miki is made painfully aware of this in her first round and eventually she will come to realize just how dangerous things have truly become.

Rush has all the elements you would come to expect from a teen novel: the survival aspect, the almost-love triangle, the tragic personal loss. It’s extremely fast-paced with Miki being dropped into her first “game” within the first few chapters, and it maintains this pace for most of the novel. The reader is thrown back and force between the Miki’s life in the real world and the game she is pulled into without any warning. Silver also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Though Miki does at one point come face to face with the unknown powers calling the shots in the game, that exchange leaves the reader with more questions than answers and when the ending is taken into consideration a second novel is no doubt in the works.

I think Silver did a great job with the development of her characters. There are many characters beyond just the main two or three that are fully fleshed out with their own quirks and unique emotional flavors so the story doesn’t fall flat when those main characters interact with others around them, such as Luka or Richelle. There’s also a certain amount of emotion worked into the storyline. Miki and her father experienced a tragic loss, as have most of the other more prominent characters as well, and that sense of loss underlines most of the novel. It gives an added dimensional in a genre that can often be very simple at the surface.

Being a gamer myself, I was personally hoping for a bit more nerdy goodness. There were certain elements that Silver included which provoked that game feeling- the score board, the life meters worn at their wrists, the system of bonus hits- but somewhere along the way I felt that aspect of the book was pushed aside for the grander notion of what they were actually fighting against. When she mentioned that a certain point level actually freed the player from inclusion in the game (and saved them from the fate awaiting them in the “real” world) I got excited and thought that something more would have been done with that idea. Maybe that’s coming in a future novel, but I ended up feeling somewhat slighted that the major appeal of the book, the idea of actually being put into a video game of sorts, wasn’t as encompassing as I had first hoped it would be. However, the book is still a fast-paced thriller with complex characters that draw you deeper into the story and the game that is pulling them down.

Rush by Eve Silver has a really unique concept, one that I hope is put to even more use and becomes even more prominent in any future novels published in this series. Silver did a great job of writing a book that doesn’t fall under the ever-popular post-apocalyptic umbrella while still incorporating the aspects of that genre that make it so appealing: survival, danger and flawed characters.

Devon – a1000booklife

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