Dear Teenager . . . I See You ~#Called2Speak~

What makes you want to speak out?

Hashtag - Called2Speak 1

The blog hop for A Time to Speak is starting. This is to encourage myself and you to speak out against injustice, about your passions, for the sake of those whose voices are not heard.

I am passionate about the teenagers of our world.

I’m passionate for them because I think this culture is mistreating them. It speaks out against cyber-bullying and yet often uses teenagers as the butts of jokes.


Every time I hear one, I feel sick to my stomach because I remember being a teenager. I remember my voice — my very oxygen — being written off by some people with a wave of the hand and, “Riiight…says the teenager.

I remember feeling like I’d never be seen as an adult because some people found it more important to use my stage of life as a sarcastic joke than to help me grow into someone of worth.

I remember the struggle of knowing how I wanted to act, yet watching myself trapped in immaturity as I figured out how to turn my mature thoughts into mature actions.

Despite my solid family, my God-fearing upbringing, my incredible parents and my adventurous life…I still had a hard time being a teen. That’s the nature of it. That’s why we all know what I’m talking about when I bring up the teenage years. So it makes me wonder again and again…how can I speak to the teens who have such a different life than I did? The ones who are butts of more jokes than I ever heard or who grew up in a broken home. Or who are immersed in a darkened culture that I never had to tackle head on?

Well, I’m a writer…so I’ve written a letter:

Dear Teen,


I see you.

More than that…I see what our culture is calling you, what it’s been branding you for years.

Lazy. Rebel. Know-it-all. Always-feeling-so-misunderstood. The very word teenager is often treated like an insult or curse-word. But…I know that’s not you.


I’ve been there. I’ve been a teen. You’ve probably heard endless adults or even your parents say this: “I was a teenager once, too!” But that was years ago — ten for me. And even in a measly ten years I can’t possibly say I understand. You’re seeing a darkness of the world I never had to encounter.

This world is hard on you.

I know you’re tired. Juggling the pressure of friends at school, the pressure to “fit in” and yet the desire to “be yourself” are at constant war. You’re in a battlefield upon which I never fought. I’m sorry. 🙁 Not to mention you’re wrangling wild hormones that heighten emotions and make everything feel like a slap in the face. No wonder you’re so tired. No wonder you sleep in when you can.

I know you’re smart. Not just school smart, but you’re a human. And — even though you’re still learning — you try to make the best decisions for yourself. Just because some adults might see a better decision doesn’t mean you’re not trying your best.teenager_poster

I know you feel trapped. Like your life won’t ever really start until high school ends–if you’re lucky enough to survive high school, that is. This sign is a cruel joke because you can’t move out until you’re old enough. Some people won’t hire you because you’re “a teen.” Much of our culture is neglecting to teach you how to learn, how to grow. Instead we’re laughing at you. Or we’re rolling our eyes at you. Or we’re labeling you just because you happen to be living through a decade that is the closest thing to hellfire.

I know you feel ignored. Like you don’t have a voice. Our culture claims that you think you know everything. Funny, I’ve never heard you claim that. But it’s not about knowing everything.  It’s about you being known. (Tweet this) And that is one reason why you speak. You speak in the hopes that your internal screaming will somehow make it to the self-righteous ears of the adults ignoring you.

So maybe that’s what draws you to read books like The Hunger Games, Legend, The Fault in Our Stars or maybe even A Time to Die…because those characters — those teenagers — are part of something bigger than themselves. They are able to change the world, to grow, to survive the darkness.

I want you to know…that’s still possible for you. In real life, not just in books, despite what our culture says about you. I write Parvin’s story so that you will see…you have a voice. God can still use you to speak to the entire world. (Tweet this)

But before you go out to tackle the world, fighting one of the toughest battles known to man, I want you to know…

You’re not alone. Believe it or not, there are adults out there, parents out there, who see the real you and can see that there is so much quality in you. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have parents like that, or a church family like that. Even if you’re not, I promise…not everyone’s against you. I’m not. And God certainly isn’t.

You are heard. I hear your voice through the fiction that you devour, through the social media you cling to, through the tiny whispers that arise from a desperation to be known. I hear you. God hears you. Keep speaking, teen, because your voice will not only shape your future but will affect this world.

Jeremiah 1

Jeremiah 1:6-8

I’m sorry…

I’m sorry for the taunts and the labels and the lies and the hurt that have come from the harsh voice of our culture. I’m sorry that I’ve been part of it a few times. I’m sorry that it took me this long to really see you.

Don’t give up. We’re here — me and God and the other adults reading this who wish they could send you a letter and a hug (or fist bump…for the guys.) And we’re rooting for you. We are adding our voices to yours because we are #called2speak for your sake. Because there are adults listening. Sure, our voices might be dimmer than those of the world right now, but they’re there. Right along side yours. Defending yours.


– Nadine and the other adults who truly see you.


In the comments (or contact me in an e-mail):

Teenager: Speak. What do you want the world to know? We will hear you.

Adults: What would you like to say to the teenagers of this world? (Positivity, please.)

A Time to Speak FB Party Blog Hop PicTo celebrate the release of A Time to Speak, I’m having a huge giveaway (see below) as well as an enormously epic Facebook party. Also, don’t forget that if you pre-order A Time to Speak, you get a free envelope of swag!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Other bloggers and the dates they’ll be sharing their passions in a #Called2Speak post:


About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. jessicascoullar

    Great Blog. And very much needed. I spent most of my teenage years longing for them to be over and feeling that life wouldn’t start until I was out of school. Of course it didn’t because all I was doing during them was waiting. But there are so many teens doing great things. I searched “teen saves…” on YouTube the other day. An inspirational hour well spent. It will restore your faith in the younger generation if you need a boost.

  2. Thank you for writing this. Teens need grownups in their lives, who aren’t relatives and who care about them. I am forever thankful for my youth leaders and others, especially in my church who took time to get to know me and listen to me. Now I have a family with kids who will be teenagers all too soon.

  3. *hugs this post a million times because it’s so true* Especially the tired part, ha. 😉

  4. This is so wonderful. 🙂 As a teenager, especially one who blogs, knowing there are adults who believe and know I have something to say is so important. Thank you, Nadine! <3

  5. Great letter, Nadine! I grew up in the church and work with a youth group now. I have a passion to see this new generation of Church kids truly realize who God sees them as (Sons and Daughters). You used the word “branded” which happens to be our theme this quarter! This is a passionate, creative generation with a huge call on their lives to be a light in the darkness. Thanks for the post!

    • Your vision for the youth group is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing. The books I’ve been brainstorming for post-Out of Time Series have revolved around being a light in the darkness — a very deep need in this world, one I think God is using to rev up the youth for a huge impact.

  6. Just wanted to say this is a fabulous post, Nadine. Every teen should read this–and many adults.

  7. Rebekah Gyger

    For me, being a teenager was only two years ago. I still remember how, even at eighteen and nineteen, people would ignore my feedback and opinions because I was “too young to understand”. I also remember how that all stopped with one birthday and how stupid it was that my age changed people’s acceptance of my opinion, as if that one year made any difference to how I had seen and understood the world.

    It still makes me mad and frustrated to think back on it. Maybe that’s why I still love dystopians.

  8. Thanks, Nadine. This was an awesome and much needed post.
    I don’t have a lot of social life… Like… Zero. 😛 So it’s hard to actually do anything that’s really important. However. I have been using the internet recently, and we’re going to get involved at the church we just started going to. 🙂

    • My pleasure, Faith! 🙂
      God can use you no matter what level of social life you have. 😉 And this is a great time to learn to grow with Him, one-on-one, to prep for when you start adventuring into the world! 🙂 I’m excited about the church you’re going to get involved with! That’s awesome!

  9. Thanks for this post, I am passionate about photography, I have a small business, but being 18 some people don’t take me very seriously. And I do feel insulted when I am called a teenager. I much prefer young lady, or just plain girl. It is amazing how surprised some people can be when they see us helping in the community and not being the “teenager” that they expected. But to all other people around my age out there you can do things, sometimes it means stepping way out of your comfort zone. But where they are other people, there will always be a way to bless, helping out with community events (you may have to make some scary phone calls) visiting nursing homes, cooking for neighbors, whatever, but we don’t have to be the ‘teen’ we are expected to be!

  10. Thank you so much for this post! It is so true and it is so encouraging to hear this from an adult who still remembers and understands what it was like to be a teenager. Sometimes being a teen is just to overwhelming and you feel like the rest of your life hinges on what is going on right now and yet you are just too tired! Thanks again! 🙂 *hugs*

    • Awww, *hugs* Keep your chin up, Lily! I’m so glad this post blessed you and I’m praying for you!
      Where you are right now in life doesn’t determine your future. You have enough to battle without worrying about life post-teen-years. Focus on persevering through the “now”, take it one day at a time. And turn to God to revive you when you’re tired, to lead you when you’re lost, and to be with you you when everything feels so overwhelming. 🙂

  11. Powerful and impacting words Nadine. I will keep this article in mind as my kids start entering their teens in a few years time.

  12. Thank you, Nadine. Teens are my passion as well, and you’ve put a lot of my feelings right into words. God bless you for it <3 🙂

  13. I remember feeling like that as a teen. Being old enough to drive and order at a restaurant, but being ignored because we were “just kids.” We all deserve respect because we are all made in the image of God. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  14. Elizabeth Newsom

    This is such a sweet letter 🙂 Thank you for posting it. I’m blessed to be surrounded by adults who respect and encourage me, but I know that there are adults who don’t do that. I was actually researching marketing for YA yesterday (kind of ironic, since I’m still a young adult) and I was surprised at the number of people who said teenagers were narcissists, egocentric, and fickle. Anyways, it’s encouraging to hear this from you and I’m glad I read this post 🙂

    • What a wonderful blessing to be surrounded by such adults! I definitely got that feel when I met your mom at ACFW. 🙂 I’m glad this post was encouraging. 🙂

  15. Nadine, this is a great post, which I found because I noticed Elizabeth had shared it on FB. I love this website and what you’re doing here. Nice meeting you at ACFW, BTW. Oh, and your “About Nadine Brandes” bio is awesome-sauce. : )

    • Awww, thank you so much Erin! It was wonderful to meet you and I never got a chance to tell you how FANTASTIC you were teaching the class regarding agents. I hope we get to visit again, longer, sometime soon. 🙂

  16. I strongly believe in empowering teens to strive for more than the expectation society sets for them! I feel like they’re viewed as being stuck in limbo, when in reality they’re entering adulthood and should be treated respectfully, as adults in training. People have a lot of admiration and love for the starry-eyed wonder of children, so why do we treat teens like they’re automatically disinterested, selfish, and view the world with glazed-over eyes? That should be the exception and not the rule! The teen years are the perfect time of life to follow your passions, because you don’t have the heavier responsibility of adulthood yet, and (hopefully!) haven’t yet had your youthful dreams squashed. 🙂

    And I totally relate to what Lily Emerson said, above…it can be so exhausting because you feel like the rest of your life hinges on what you do as a teen. I got MARRIED as a teen – the weight and gravity of that was very, very heavy on me, and until my twenties I didn’t realize how terrified I was during those years of falling in love and getting married. (Young love is the ideal for a lot of people, and it was for me too, but it’s certainly not a cakewalk!)

    I encourage teens to remember that life is an ongoing process of learning and growing. You don’t reach some magic milestone at 20, become an adult, and coast from there. You keep learning and growing your whole life! You have time. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” as they say. You have a lot of life ahead – or rather, because we can’t know that for certain, we should always live life intentionally, like Parvin, striving for God’s glory each day, following the calls He lays on our hearts. 🙂

    • Thank you, Bethany. 🙂 This is a lovely comment. I’m in my mid-teens right now, and I often prefer the internet for communicating with people… For many reasons, but one of them is that they can’t tell how old you are and make assumptions based on that. People seem to often discredit your insight if they know you’re a teen, but I’ve discovered that if I don’t tell people how old I am over the internet, everyone thinks I’m older than I really am.
      Anyways, thanks for this. 🙂

    • Everything you say in this comment is so true. Thank you for sharing, Bethany. I can see a passion through your words and I know your children and the teens in your life will thank you for all the ways you truly /see/ them. 🙂

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  18. Thank you for writing this!! I feel often ignored just because I’m young (seventeen) by even people who love me. It hurts, yeah, especially since I don’t think a lot of people realize how much it bothers me (and so many other teenagers). How awesome is it, though, that God sees us, knows us, and yet still loves us!

    I’m speaking at a bunch of parish missions this year, and I’ve found that so many teens think that they’re just not worth anything because of the way culture treats them. It’s so heartbreaking. I pray that teens everywhere would find the love of God that alone can satisfy and that they would rise up and take charge.

    Life is so beautiful, regardless of how mean/unsensitive some people can be! God’s got it, regardless.

    Again, thank you for your beautiful, inspiring words.

    • Also, a funny story illustrating people’s biased against teens…

      So last night, I had a speaking engagement with my family, and my brother was giving the first talk…anyway, while he was talking, I was thinking about my own talk, and a verse popped into my head that I wanted to look up. So I walked over to the table where our stuff was to grab my bible. There were a couple of adult women standing by the table (I think the kids’ youth ministers?)…anyway, I got my bible and sat back down.

      After the talk, I put my bible away, and one of the ladies said to me, “Oh, when you stood up to get your bible, I was about to yell at you because I thought you were going to get your cell phone.” I laughed it off…but it stuck with me.

      Our world in general (and I’m guilty of it too) automatically assumes the worst! And that’s so frustrating, because we’re labeled and we can’t break out of these labels. Even if I grabbed my phone…what if I was looking up the bible on it? Or some other thing to help with my talk?

      It frustrates me that teens can’t be taken seriously, even when we’re in positions of leadership.

      Okay, I’m done now, I promise! =)

      • Thank you for that. This culture isn’t kind to “teens,” but we just have to remember that the people of nowadays don’t dictate what we are. Sometimes you can listen and believe it, without even realizing.
        Anyways, thanks. 🙂

    • Wow, what a heart and passion you have, Anne! I think it’s wonderful how God is using you to reach and encourage your peers. I’m so glad you found this post inspiring — your comment inspired /me/! 🙂

  19. Wow. What an amazing post. Thank you for sharing your heart, and for being someone who not only sees the flaws in our culture, but speaks out and does something about them. Nadine, you are a gem.

    I spent my teen years in the middle of the jungle with a bunch of other teen girls who were getting married at fifteen, so my experience as a teen missionary kid is very different than most. Still, I dealt with many of the things you’ve mentioned. In some ways, it has escalated since I became a teen aged author. Everyone is always so shocked that I was actually able to take my gifts and dreams, and through a lot of hard work, make something out of it.

    Yet, these teen years are so crucial. How can we not take everything we are seeing, learning, digesting and SPEAK?

    • Aww, thank you Kara — you are such an encouragement.

      I find it very interesting that you dealt with similar issues, even while being immersed in such different cultures for a time. I hope someday we break that trend. It’s voices like yours that help bring that about! 🙂

  20. Nadine! Once again your heart is the loudest thing about you. Thank you for being so real. Thank you for listening. For seeing. I remember those times, too, and I’m with you. As someone who works with (and parents) teens, I see, sometimes too well, the attitudes, the hurts, the bullying you’re decrying. I hear people suggest that my life must be tough right now with two teens in the house.

    But it’s amazing actually. Two burgeoning young people, finding their own voices, navigating their own way. I LOVE being a mom through these seasons. And I get riled when people who don’t know my kids assume the worst. Teenagers are amazing. So full of potential…So full of life.

    And to help them build that backbone? Cement those convictions? Learn to step and engage in the dance of Others with grace? It’s a privilege.

    Keep it comin’, girl.

    • Thanks, Bethany. I’m the middle child in a family of eleven, and comments like that are normal for our family. Three of us are teenagers, myself included, and it’s lovely. 🙂

    • Bethany I LOVE YOUR VIEW ABOUT YOUR TEENS! I’m not a parent yet but I get very excited about having teenage kids. Not because I think it will be easy to raise them (honestly, are kids easy to raise at any point in their lives? 😛 ) but because I love how God can work in their hearts to move them toward such intentional and powerful living. *chills* 😀

      Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to the next time we can hang out at conference! 🙂

  21. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :’! :’D

  22. Thanks for this post! It’s really beautiful, and I love your passion. 🙂

  23. This was a fantaatic read. I need to reach out to the young people in my church.

  24. Great post Nadine! Thank you for encouraging the next generation to rise up and take their place! 🙂

  25. Yes, yes, YES to this post. Thank you so much for this. Sometimes I just need the reminder. 🙂

    One thing I’m passionate about that I often get scoffing reactions for? Languages. All of ‘em. A lot of times people will say it’s crazy to spend time learning a language I’m “never going to use” and “only a few people speak that anymore anyway.” But to me, as long as one person speaks a language, it’s worth learning. If I can share hope and truth with them in their own language, I believe it shows respect and may open more doors than English would’ve. In fact, I’ve actually had that happen before—I met a Chinese lady on my mission trip to the state of Washington this year, and I said hello and asked a question in Chinese. She answered me, kind of shocked, and we had a 45-minute conversation afterward that I don’t think would’ve happened had I just smiled and said hi in English. I also was able to greet a Ukrainian lady in her own language and got to witness the beautiful smile that lit up her face.

    …See…I could go on about this all day. 🙂

    But as for the actual post, I agree that most teenagers just want to be known and understood. We’re in a hard place between children and adults, and it’s frustrating to swing back and forth between the two. It’s hard because of all the assumptions that we think we know everything and don’t want any help–because really, we do, we just don’t know how to ask for it now, and we want to feel like grownups. We want to seem like we know what we’re doing when in reality we don’t. And those of us with several younger siblings may just be so used to taking on the load of a grownup from a young age that when we hit, say, twelve or so, we decide that we have to be able to do it all on our own now because our parents are busy with the younger ones. It can take a lot, and I mean a LOT of work to undo that, so it would be great for parents (and other adults!) to realize this tendency beforehand so they can encourage soon-to-be-teens to talk to them about things and just LISTEN (because that’s another thing, sometimes we just need someone to listen). That’ll do worlds for understanding and trust.

    Thanks again for sharing this. It’s something that needs to be said. Reminds me of the Rebelution, have you heard of it?

  26. Shy have a hard time speaking out.

  27. Thank you for this wonderful post and generous giveaway. I have always been shy and not one to speak up but I am a little more passionate concerning being polite and courteous to everyone.

  28. Thank you for the amazing post! It was so encouraging to me. I am a 17 year old who just recently read A Time To Die and am very excited about A Time To Speak! You are an amazing author.

  29. Great post! I really love your books(well, book until tomorrow) and am sooo excited about A Time to Speak and your giveaway! Thanks for hosting! :):)

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  31. This post is so awesome. 😛 I’ve been sharing it with every teenager I know. xP

  32. What an awesome party! I loved every part of it and would REALLY love to read A Time to Die and A Time to Speak! Thanks! (This is Annie JC via FB signin)

    • I forgot to answer the questions. I’m passionate about many things, books for instance. As to a cause, I’m passionate about elder care. I see too many elders being taken advantage of. As to how to speak out, I speak out through my reviews and at church. Given more opportunity, I would like to organize an event to boost elder abuse awareness.

  33. I’m am passionate about quilting & reading 🙂

  34. Hi! Great givaway by the way. I can’t wait to read your books, they sound like the will be very good. 🙂

  35. Awesome post!! I’m a teen who writes books now and wants to eventually direct Christian fiction for the big screen! I would love to take books like yours and make clean and uplifting films for Christians!

  36. I think I have two more books for my list. 😀 Can’t wait to read these. I hope I win, because I can’t afford books right now… XD

    Here we go:

    What are you passionate about?
    Writing. I love to put across messages in my books that the world needs to hear… even if my books don’t get to more than a dozen people.
    (shameless self-plug: )
    I’m also passionate about spreading love and acceptance in this hate-filled world.

    If given the chance, how would you speak out?
    I would raise awareness and tolerance for mental illnesses, especially in children and teenagers. The longer a disorder goes untreated, the harder it is to treat, and the more chance that the person won’t survive the storm in their own head.

    What stops you from speaking out?
    I feel like no one would listen, or if they did, they’d expect me personally to do something about it or fix something, and I can’t do that. I also fear that if I did run some kind of campaign, everyone with a problem would come to me for help, and I’m struggling with my own mental illness issues – I can’t handle much of anyone else’s. But I would hate myself for turning anyone away, so I’d wear myself down trying to help anyway.

    Thanks for the giveaway! I look forward to reading you sometime! 🙂

  37. This series sounds like a wonderful trilogy, and I’m excited to hear about it, Nadine! Though I have only heard of your novels for the first time today, I’d love to read them! It makes me glad to see stories of this genre from a Christian worldview. Fantastic!

  38. I appreciate your heart very much. <3
    I have a passion to help hurting teens … children … adults … animals. I'm very sensitive to those who are suffering (especially hidden suffering). I do anything I can for each person (or animal) God brings my way–sometimes it's just a moment's interaction, sometimes investment for many years. I've supported many children & missionaries in other countries (for the past 30 years)–with finances, gifts, and personal letters. I support people in my own country, state, and city in every way I can. I've done volunteer work, provided resources, written hours & hours of emails and spent endless hours on the phone to encourage & pray for countless people in my life. If I had more opportunity, I would just give more! I wouldn't even try to plan how … I've discovered that God uses me in many unexpected ways if I just stay open and sensitive to His voice and those around me.

  39. This is really cool to read, Nadine. I’m in my twenties now, but I wish I heard this as a teen. It really touched me. I’m passionate about being Pro-Life. It’s why it’s so central in one of my books series I’m writing and I’m hoping I can speak about it when the books are published. Best wishes with A Time to Speak! I’m reading A Time to Die soon then I’m on to that one. ^ ^

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  41. Thank you for this super encouraging post. I’m blessed in that I’m surrounded by adults who do want to help me grow . . . even when I’m not always so excited about growing, haha. Still, I appreciate it, because the stereotype still gets to me sometimes too.
    The one thing I wish more adults would do . . . talk to me. I mean, I don’t like talking to strangers, really. I’m quiet. Introverted. On the shy side. If you see me writing or reading or something, let me be. But if I’m in a social setting and I’m sitting there, and I’m just listening and not really doing anything except maybe looking bored, and you’re just chatting with my parents . . . and if there’s a pause in the conversation, maybe talk to me too. Remind me that I’m not invisible, because I feel that way sometimes.

  42. I’m “barely” an adult, though I will be 20 in a few more months, so I’m going from the “adult” perspective. To all the teens younger than me, I would say: I wish you saw your true worth. You are worth so much more than the world tells you. The world says that you are only of worth if you meet their standard of beauty or if you give yourself away. Don’t believe it! God says you are “priceless” which means that no matter what people try to sell you, they can’t put a price tag on you. God says you are worth the death of His only Son. That’s how much He loves you. I know it sounds trite, but find your worth in Him
    Did you know, that the word “worthless” is not in the Bible? You can’t find it in any line. Because when God created us, He said “it is good.” Listen to His voice and find out what He says about you – I can promise that you’ll never find “worthless” or “unwanted” or “ugly” or any of the world’s labels within His vocabulary.

  43. Loved this post, Nadine! The church NEEDS its youth. Their energy, their spark, their ability to see old things in a new way – ALL of these are important to our future as a body. It’s not only their Time to Speak, it should be OUR time to LISTEN!

  44. I’m passionate about….knowing Jesus and making Him known. What stops me too often is fear. Nasty little thing! But He’s greater than fear, praise God!

  45. I am currently reading A Time To Die and love your ‘voice!” Thanks for writing about such a great concept….!

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