7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Title: Nevermore

Author: Kelly Creagh

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult

Publisher: Atheneum Books (Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: August 2010
Hardcover: 528 pages

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in a planned series

How did I get this book: Advance Review Copy from the author

Why did I read this book: I, like most people in their right mind, love the stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Take that love, added to a young adult novel with a horrific twist inspired by Poe’s work (and his mysterious death), blended together with a sort of ‘star-crossed lovers’ type of deal and I am instantly sold. I was ecstatic to get my hands on a copy of Nevermore.


Isobel Lanley appears to be your typical popular cheeleader – blonde, pretty, perky as hell, with a hot football playing beefcake of a boyfriend, a shot at Cheerleading Nationals, and a circle of tight-knit friends. Varen Nethers is, on the opposite side of the spectrum, your typical goth kid, complete with dyed black hair, pale skin, a morose wardrobe, a particular taste in the obscure and macabre, and an imposing “stay away” attitude. Both Isobel and Varen have their own circles and comfortable niches, content never to have to challenge the status quo. So, when Isobel and Varen are paired for an english project, neither one of them is exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to work together – Varen finds Isobel vapid and ridiculous, Isobel thinks Varen is a rude, judgmental jerk, and more than a little bit unnerving with his cold demeanor. The uncomfortable situation only becomes even worse when Isobel’s overprotective boyfriend Brad gives a truly disinterested Varen the macho territorial treatment, and Isobel’s friends give her grief for having to spend time with Varen to work on their project. Social foibles aside, Isobel and Varen gradually come to understand each other, accept each other, and even become something more than just acquaintances and casual friends – against every instinct and social rule, Isobel finds herself falling for the aloof, guarded Varen. But there’s more than social expectations and rules that will keep the two apart, as Isobel comes to discover only too late that their project on Edgar Allen Poe has a deeper, more significant implication for Varen. And soon, Varen’s waking nightmares follow Isobel too – and she’s the only one that can help him break free of the darkness that threatens to consume them both.

Against all expectations, I fell in love with Nevermore. After reading the synopsis for the book, I was excited for it, true, but i was also wary – Nevermore had the potential to be incredible, but also the equally opposite potential to be incredibly bad. Happily, Kelly Creagh’s debut proved to be the former. At first glance, Nevermore looks like a stereotypical starcrossed lovers tale – but what makes Nevermore so effective and memorable is the play on tropes and stereotypes. I loved that the heroine of this novel is Isobel – a happy, perky, popular cheerleader. The girl cheerleader is anathema in YA lit, so often portrayed as the villainous airhead/bitch/slut (see Karen Healey’s excellent recent guest article about the phenomenon). I loved that narrator Isobel is a different type of heroine – she isn’t the common shy/awkward/geek gal – in fact, Isobel isn’t much of a reader or brain, and she’s more caught up with the pressures of school and her fiercely athletic love for cheer (again, COOL). As she tells Varen at one point, she likes the sun and cheerleading and she’s not ashamed of it. By that token, Varen also isn’t some noble hero or sparkly outsider that is instantly drawn to Isobel. In this novel, Isobel is our intrepid heroine, and instead of waiting for Varen to stick up for her or break down barriers, instead of crumbling under the expectations of her friends and her meathead boyfriend, Isobel is the one that takes a stand (there is one scene in the cafeteria with her confrontation and it is amazing – it will break your heart and make you furious and fall in love with Isobel even more). That, readers, is pretty freakin’ awesome.

That’s not to say that Isobel or Varen are perfect creatures, because both are incredibly textured, layered and wonderfully flawed. I love that Ms. Creagh takes her time building these characters, starting with initial mutual dislike, and slowly peeling back the layers of their personalities. If there’s one criticism I have of YA romance (or even romance in general), it’s that there’s a lack of tension and build-up – two characters almost always find themselves inexplicably drawn to the other’s ravishing good looks, or air of mystery, or whatever. With Nevermore? Not the case. The chemistry is perfect and it simmers slowly throughout the novel at a beautiful, restrained pace. There are no happy endings here, there is a ton of pain and grief that goes their way – both natural and supernatural.

And…this is where the novel’s strengths falter a bit. I *love* the idea of this dream world that Ms. Creagh has created in Nevermore, replete with ghouls and living nightmares and shades; I love the idea of a cold Morella/Ligeia type of character and all the horrific allusions to Poe’s works. It’s clear that Ms. Creagh has done her homework and has beautifully integrated many favorite Poe stories and poems (“Dream Within A Dream,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Raven,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” etc) into the overall novel, through the surreal dream world that threatens to trap both Varen and Isobel. However. For all that the ideas of the dreamworld are fascinating and unique, there is some stumbling with the executionof this realm. If anything, the hazy dreamscape is a little too amorphous, and unevenly paced as these supernatural-heavy turns all take place for the book’s last act. The result is a bit disjointed – for the first two thirds of the book, Nevermore focuses on character development and the harsh realities of high school drama, tinged with a bit of a spooky supernatural vibe. But the last third of the novel is chock full of supernatural dealings – Nocs and Shadows and the legacy of Poe and the mysterious Reynolds. That said, I think both the realistic and the surreal elements are done very well – they just aren’t integrated and married as a whole very well. I loved the ending of the novel and that Ms. Creagh isn’t afraid to draw things out – as I mentioned before, there are no simple happy ever afters here – and of course, now I’m impatient as hell for the next book. Nevermore is a book that I really and truly enjoyed, with only a few executionary flaws to hold me back from loving it with complete abandon. Absolutely recommended (and this is coming from someone totally burned out with the teen YA paranormal romance novel at large).

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:


By the end of fourth period, Isobel’s espresso buzz from that morning’s venti latte had long since worn off. She yawned, fast approaching crash-and-burn territory and shifted in her seat as Mr. Swanson droned on and on about the green-eyed monster, Desdemona, thus, thou, and yea verily. She traced and retraced the looping spiral design she’d all but ground into the front of her blue notebook.

“And with that,” Mr. Swanson said, finally snapping closed his ultrathick teacher’s copy of their text, cueing the rest of the class to follow suit with a unanimous thunk, “we’ll leap into further discussion about Iago and his supposed honesty on Monday.”

Isobel straightened in her seat, brushed her sheet of blond hair behind one shoulder, and shut her own book with relish.

“But hold on, hold on,” he said above the rustling and scraping of chairs. He raised both hands and lowered them through the air, as if such a motion somehow held the power to still the room and reinstate the Elizabethan-literature-inspired stupor he’d managed to cast over all.

Kids jonesing for lunch and already halfway out of their seats sank back down again, their butts reconnecting with their chairs like magnets snapping together. All around, backpacks slipped from shoulders and chins returned to hands.

They should have known better, Isobel thought wryly. Swanson never let them out early. Never. Especially not as early as a quarter till.

“Don’t go and get antsy on me yet, folks,” he warned, now brandishing a stack of what looked suspiciously to Isobel like fresh-from-the-copier pages.

“Heads-up to the syllabus being passed around,” he called, licking a finger and leafing through the first few. Then, rewetting his fingertips, he sent out the next stack, and the next.

Isobel blanched as she watched the papers make their way toward her, and she hoped she’d be lucky enough to snag one relatively free of Swanson saliva.

“We’ve avoided it long enough.” He sighed in mock remorse. “Now, I’m sure the seniors all warned you about this one. Well, here it is. The big one. Better to get it over with early in the year, I say. You guessed it—the Swanson project.” He announced this last bit cheerfully (if not maniacally), and a grin spread its way beneath his wiry gray-white mustache.

Groans arose from key points around the room, Isobel’s own buried in the back of her throat.

Projects took time. A lot of time.

“This is to be a partner project,” Swanson continued, “due the last Friday of the month. That’s Halloween, for those of you who haven’t got your iPhones or BlackBerries or Kicksides or whodiwhat calendars handy—which I hope for their sake no one does.”

The boredom that had only a moment ago made Isobel’s limbs heavy and her mind sluggish slipped away from her in a quick whoosh, like a magician’s cloth.

Hold up. Did he say Halloween? Uh, yeah, where was his calendar? Did he not know that was the night of the rival football game against Millings? Lift up the rock, Swanson. Breathe. It’s called air.

Isobel’s grip tightened around her pen. She kept her gaze steady on her English teacher, all dials now tuned to the Swanson channel.

“This project,” he said, “will consist of both a presentation and a detailed ten-page paper. I want you and your partner to select a famous American author—any American author. Though, in the spirit of Halloween, let’s make sure they’re dead, okay? In other words, no Stephen Kings, Heather Grahams, or James Pattersons. Also, this is an assignment to be completed outside of class, since we’re currently in the middle of Othello.”

Ten pages? Ten pages. That was epic. That was like . . . the freaking Gettysburg Address. Was Swanson really going to sit down and read all those papers?

Probably, she thought. And love every minute of it too.

She just didn’t get it. Why did Swanson have to assign a huge project due on the day of the rival game? No one ever got any work done that week. He could have at least given them that weekend.

It always amazed her how teachers seemed to think that students didn’t have lives outside of school. They couldn’t seem to grasp that by the time she got home from cheer practice, ate dinner, and scribbled down something on the mound of homework she already had, it was practically time to go to bed.

Isobel started an immediate scan of the room. This was serious, and she needed to locate a brainer—stat.

She eyed Julie Tamers, marching band geek extraordinaire, and began to plan a strategic route to the open chair next to hers when Mr. Swanson spoke again.

“FYI,” he began, class roster poised in one hand, chin tilted down, wire-rim glasses perched at the tip of his nose, “I’m trying something different this year in hopes it will both broaden your perspective and improve overall project results. That said, I’ll take a moment to include my little disclaimer that all pairings have been made at random. So after I read your names off the list you can partner up, brainstorm among yourselves, and then head to lunch. Starting with Josh Anderson and Amber Ricks.”

Isobel felt her jaw unhinge.

Wait, she thought. Just wait. Random pairings were so third grade. He could not be serious.

“Katlyn Binkly and Alanna Sato,” he continued. “Next we have Todd Marks and Romelle Jenkins.”

Around her, those whose names had already been called rose from their seats to find their corresponding partners. Isobel sat stunned at their willingness. For real? Was she the only one who felt the burn of injustice? Wasn’t anyone else going to say anything?

“Isobel Lanley and Varen Nethers.”

She felt her chest contract.


Oh, no. No way.

She turned her head slowly and took a long, reluctant look to the opposite end of the room. He sat in the back row against the far corner, slumped in his seat and staring straight ahead through shreds of inky locks, his thin wrists lined in black leather bands specked with hostile silver studs.

This could not be happening.

You can read the full excerpt online HERE.

Additional Thoughts: Author Kelly Creagh pays a wonderful, gothic homage to Edgar Allan Poe with Nevermore – and as a fellow Poe fan, this is a truly delightful treat. My favorite Poe poem is “El Dorado” (it’s the first poem I learned by heart when I was a kid), story is a toss-up between “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” and – of course – Vincent Price adaptation has to be The Black Cat, The Raven, or Morella (these are each wildly different than the source material, but are awesome in true Vincent Price fashion). (And yes, one of my favorite collections was Vincent Price’s Tales of Terror – costarring the wonderful Peter Lorre. AWESOME.)

Make sure you stick around, as author Kelly Creagh stops by to answer some of our burning questions for another segment of “SMUGGLED!”

Rating: 7 – Very Good, and with bucket-loads of upside potential.

Reading Next: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


  • Jordan
    August 31, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Hmm…I don’t know.

    It just sounds it would have been a better idea to keep the two concepts apart in two separate stories; so you’ve got a high school social exploration tale in one book, then the Poe adventures in another. As it is this just sounds messy and unconvincing – BUT I haven’t read the book yet and you thought it was fairly good, so maybe I’ll try it and be really surprised (probably!). <3

    I hope I didn't sound pretentious or anything, but I get the same problem with writing stories. I always want to do too much with one story when I should split the concepts up into unrelated stories.

  • Sean Wills
    August 31, 2010 at 2:21 am

    …I’m sorry, but that cover is the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously, that’s how they decided to portray one of the main characters?

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this probably wouldn’t be my cup of tea.

  • Meg
    August 31, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Great review! I am also burned out on YA paranormal romance. You brought up a good point about so many of characters of late being instantly attracted to one another-so true! I think I will enjoy a more drawn out gradual relationship.
    This book sounds…strange, but it might work in Creagh’s hands. I really like Poe so I think I will plan on reading it when it is released (plus your mostly positive review helped convince me).

    I have to agree about that awful cover! I can’t tell of that is blood coming out of his mouth or a lip ring.

  • Thea
    August 31, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Jordan – I wholeheartedly recommend that you read the book first before deciding whether or not the story is sloppy 😉 I do think that the supernatural and realistic elements could have been integrated better than they were, but as the book stands, Kelly Creagh has created a compelling book that managed to win me over (and I’m usually a tough purchase! Seriously, just ask Ana!)

    I’d be interested to see what you think if you get a chance to read Nevermore!

    Sean – Hey, man. The cover is, yes, a bit ridiculous in my opinion, but I am a FIRM proponent of the “don’t judge a book by its cover” adage. Because, seriously? If I limited what I read based on cover art, my bookshelf would be a very lonely, underpopulated place.

    But, as for Nevermore not being your cuppa, to each their own!

    Meg – One of the reasons why Nevermore is so winsome is because it is ‘strange’ 🙂 It is unique, and I love that Ms. Creagh isn’t afraid to step out of the Twilight-mold-for-YA-paranormal-romance.

    (Oh and it’s a lip ring on Varen’s face on the cover. Yes, the cover is pretty bad, I agree.)

    All I have left to say to any lurkers and potential commenters – PLEASE, please, please do not make a snap judgement about this book because of its cover. As someone that is: 1. not a romantic; 2. COMPLETELY burned out with YA romance, Nevermore managed to win me over against my natural skeptical inclinations. I urge everyone to give the book a fair shot before condemning it because of its cheesy cover.

  • KMont
    August 31, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I’m trying to ignore a work project for a few so I can read your review, and trying to carefully read your review as well, but this line sold me:

    If there’s one criticism I have of YA romance (or even romance in general), it’s that there’s a lack of tension and build-up – two characters almost always find themselves inexplicably drawn to the other’s ravishing good looks, or air of mystery, or whatever. With Nevermore? Not the case.

    And the angels of Ya declared this point to be:


    Cuz I am SO tired of that inexplicable I-want-you-ness in Ya. And before anyone tells me that’s the way it is sometimes, I also have to point out that I started daiting my now hubby when I was fifteen, him seventeen, and I assure all, we had REASONS for falling in love, even as teenagers.

    Whew! That being said, I gotta read this book.


    If anything, the hazy dreamscape is a little too amorphous, and unevenly paced as these supernatural-heavy turns all take place for the book’s last act. The result is a bit disjointed —

    Ruh-roh! Will power through it anyway, the book DOES sound like it attempts to be more than the average YA romance. I’m in.

  • KMont
    August 31, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Oh, by the way, gotta say I like the cover. Is it the guy that looks ridiculous to yall? In all seriousness now, more than one Goth guy at my high school looked like him. *shrug* Is it his appearance then?

  • Thea
    August 31, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Kenda – Oh I have a feeling you will love this book too :mrgreen: I was so thrilled to finally read a YA romance where two characters actually DON’T like each other and gradually fall for each other. None of this love-at-first-sight stuff. (Sorry!)

    And as for the cover – for me, it’s the look on the guy’s face. He reminds me so much of Todd from Wedding Crashers, I want to giggle every time I look at the cover. But, that’s just me 😈

  • Rhiannon Hart
    August 31, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Ooh nice, I like the sound of this romance. It’s so rare to find one that’s well developed. And I love Poe, what little I’ve read of him. I love new interpretations of his stuff. You can’t go past this for sheer awesomeness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3z4mY5Xvr8

    I’m so out of the loop I hadn’t even heard of this one. Time to get back into the loop methinks :mrgreen:

  • Dawn Michelle
    September 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I just read the book and am equally in love with it. The author carried me through the story with barely enough room to breathe. I especially loved the last scene, which I will not divulge, and await the next book with bated breath.

  • Kayla
    September 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I am in the process of reading the book and I honestly am having trouble putting it down.
    And I disagree with some of the comments above me. I love the cover!

  • Michelle Reynoso
    September 23, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Love this book! I’m halfway through and I can’t put it down. The story is crafted in such a way that it leaves you wanting more the second you put it down. Bravo!

  • Martine
    October 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Personally, Im not burned out on YA books. Why would I be? I seldom read them. Sure, some, like Twilight have gotten publicity, but I don’t see how that is a problem. Im not one of those people that thinks “Oh my goodness, everyone likes it, it must be bad”. Actually, I liked Twilight, and I only read it because so many snobbish things were being said about it.
    I think in reality people are instantly attracted to each other. I have never seen it go any other way. I have seen people try to date people they think are “right” for them, or whom they like, and it leads to disaster. Loving isn’t liking.
    As for too many themes..well.. it depends on an authors skill. With most good authors who have honed their craft, a lot going on is great. Think of Stephen King stories, and tell me how many themes there are! Never less then twenty.
    This book looks great.

  • Martine
    October 20, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    One thing I REALLY do not understand is where everyone is getting books about people who are attracted to each other like normal humans; Right away. The only book like that I found is Twilight! In most rmance books you have the heroine acting like she hates the guy she is attrated to for the better half of the book, until you just want to scream “Make up your little, tiny excuse of a mind!!!”. I am absolutely fed up with snarky girls who diss a guy they feel attracted to. Worse yet they play hard to get like they were twelve years old, and make the poor bastard prove his affection by running after them on every page. I HATE THAT! If a guy put up with that kind of treatment, I wouldn’t say a lot for his self esteem. This is especially true in paranormal romances where the women blame vampires for being vampires, blame werewolves for being werewolves, and just in general blame the guy for the fact that things are getting dangerous or unpleasant, and cry and cringe about how they just want to be normal. How mean do you have to be to blame someone for being who they are? How cowardly do you have to be to blow up at the people helping you because you are afraid? Very. So if you know of books were the heroine is polite and treats the guy lovingly throughout the story, Id love to read it. Please tell me about it.

  • Courtney
    November 22, 2010 at 5:55 am

    I loved this book. I found Varen absolutely fascinating, and I don’t even know why. There was something about his character that just… drew me in? I’ve always liked books where the guy is an outsider and the girl is popular – or vice versa. I love to read that kind of thing. I have to admit… this book made me cry at the end. One of the reasons that won’t ruin the book, is the fact that Varen is so guarded in the beginning and then you see him open up and show his true emotions to Isobel. It made his character seem so real – so alive.
    And I actually like the front cover. It challenges stereotypes by putting a goth dude with a blonde chick on the cover. It made me want to read the book in the first place 😀
    When I picked up the book I literally didn’t put it down, I read until 2AM because I was so into the story.
    I would recommend this book to anyone. Since I read Nevermore I’ve been itching to read the next one. The story was really enthralling and I absolutely ADORED it.

  • Aretha
    December 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I just finished the book, after days of not eating or sleeping because I just couldn’t put it down! I loved it. Let me first say the the cover is what peaked my interest. I don’t find anything wrong with it, expect for the fact that one the one I’m looking at Varen doesn’t have a lip ring :?. I also agree with the comment above about not being burned out on YA romance, though this one is different form the typical ones. I strongly reccomend that people give this book a try. I can’t wait for the next one!

  • YA Yeah Yeah
    January 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I loved the first 2/3 or so but the dream world stuff was too confusing for me to really get into it the end bit all that much. Great review, though.

  • Geetanjali
    January 6, 2011 at 8:21 am

    okay, guys i’ve read the book, and trust me, this was one of the best books i’ve ever read. Her writing was entirely different from what i was used to. Her imagination and the depth was really appreciative. When i was reading the part about the dream world, i could picture the whole thing in front of me. I think kelly did an amazing job for a debut. It wasn’t one of those cheesy novels with attractive people and happy endings like the review said,i particularly liked the ending, it was sad, yes but GOOD. I always pictured cheerleaders as dumb puppets but who knew right? Once again, I LOVED this book…its a must read guys!

  • Irina
    February 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Loved it! Second book coming out any time soon?? 🙄

  • ashley
    March 14, 2011 at 1:50 am

    OMG !!! i just finished reading this book. I fell in love with Varen, and cried my eyes out at the end. I can’t wait untill the next one comes out ! 🙂

  • Redhead Heroines
    May 18, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I agree with you on almost all points here: the last 100 pages or so of the novel were very supernatural-heavy and were not executed very well. I found myself trudging through those last pages up to the conclusion, which was amazing, but nonetheless, a cliffhanger, which I hate! I can’t wait for the sequel! 🙂
    – Alyssa of Redhead Heroines
    Book Review of “Nevermore” by Kelly Creagh

  • Zara
    August 10, 2011 at 6:23 am

    okay at first that lip ring freaked me out, but maybe, given your persuasive writing skills I might just give it a shot. But seriously blonde Isobel, on the cover is freakiiiiii.Her face id ghastly hidden and Varen, i’m like waiting for some blood to fall. C’mon, i can think at least five better covers then vampire ghosts. Poe-dude? I feel like i’m in the seventeenth centuary having lunch with William Shakespear.

    But no matter, i’ll read it!

  • Wynona
    December 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    This book is absolutely AMAZING. It’s not the typical star-crossed lovers thing. Plus, a goth dude and a cheerleader? Who knew they’d make an epic love team. I highly recommend that others read this book. Don’t judge the guy from the cover, he’s just a model of some sort anyways. I PROMISE if you’ll read this book, you’ll see a totally different side to VAREN 😀 Screw the vampires, and HELLOOOO goth dudes!

  • Rena
    January 2, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Enilgtehnnig the world, one helpful article at a time.

  • sgwsuo
    January 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm

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  • Book Review: Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh | The Book Smugglers
    September 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    […] did I read this book: I was completely surprised by how much I loved Nevermore, the first book in this planned series. And, as that book ends on something of a cliffhanger, I […]

  • Hayliee the mischief maker
    November 20, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    OMG I have read all of the books they were amazing I have to say at first I was a little apprehensive because it wasn’t like any of the other books I read but after the first 20 pages I was hooked I was reading day and night but honestly I didn’t really like the way oblivion ended I found it kind of sad that doesn’t mean the rest of the book wasn’t amazing because it definitely was ? I love Kelly Creagh I wish I series hadent ended.

  • Raymond
    March 25, 2016 at 4:19 am

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  • Kapsul Jamu Pelangsing
    May 30, 2017 at 4:03 am

    I didn’t really like the way oblivion ended I found it kind of sad that doesn’t mean the rest of the book wasn’t amazing because it definitely was ?

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