Thu
May 2 2013 2:30pm

It’s Not Me, It’s You: Breaking Up with a Series

Goodbye image by woodleywonderworks via FlickrI love a good series, and it's hard to give up on a pair of characters or a world when I've cared about it so much. When I find out an author is going to expand their story into a series, I jump right on the bandwagon and wish list everything. If I love your stories, there is the potential for me to become a fan for life. I’ll follow you through the good and bad times. I’ll defend your story choices. But I have strong expectations when I read series. I am committing to you for the long haul and I expect the same commitment from you. You don’t have to propose marriage, but I expect monogamy. I want book 26 to be just as interesting and exciting as the first in the series.

If you start to falter in our relationship, I suddenly find myself looking at other authors. While there may be fifty ways to leave your lover, there are only five reasons that will make me hand you back your class ring and tell you to hit the road...we are over.

1. Lack of focus

As I stated above, I have expectations in a series and when they aren’t met, I get angry and flounce away. Most series have a long-running arc. That's the appeal. Though there may be minor conflicts that are resolved at the end of each book, the end game needs to stay strong throughout the series. There can be only one. When the series begins to overflow with multiple characters, 3-4 additional arcs, and a few spin-offs, then this relationship has become too complicated and it’s time to leave.

2. Hopeless characters

Conflicts are a fact of life and almost every book we read has a damaged hero and/or heroine that has issues concerning their image, childhood, past deeds, ect...and while I have no problems with damaged characters, I do have a problem when they don’t grow beyond or in spite of their issues. Lately, some of my go to series books contain characters who can’t seem to get beyond their issues. They are stagnating in their lives; subtly blaming everyone else for their problems. And the characters who enable them are no better. We are in the 4th or 5th installment and the character is STILL whining, moaning, bitching, and finger-pointing about life being so unfair and no one knows what they are going through. Boo-hoo. Who really wants to read a continuous storyline—even if it's fiction—about someone who is unable to move past a certain point in their life?

3. The continuous beatdown

I’m all for angsty character driven series where our protagonists have to work hard for their relationships to work. It’s only when the characters you have grown to love never catch a break you begin to wonder exactly what the point is. I don’t want to read a series where in each installment the protagonists are ripped apart in some heartbreaking fashion. Then you wait a year to see if this is finally the book where they will be allowed some time in the sun only to discover they are once again denied happiness. When does it end? Of course, this leads me to the dreaded cliffhanger.

4. Extreme cliffhangers

Like extreme skiing, only not as fun.

This popular plot device, especially in NA and YA, has left this reader ready to throw in the towel. The extreme cliffhanger, not to be confused with the regular cliffhanger, is where it ends right in the middle of a climatic moment. It’s the kind that has you convinced your e-reader stole a page or two because the ending almost makes no sense. Encountering one is akin to being offered a never-ending chocolate bar, only to have it snatched from your lips at the last moment. When you read a story, you invest a portion of your life to it, with the expectation of a payout at the end. A regular cliffhanger casually denies you the full payout. An extreme cliffhanger slaps you in the face, calls you a sucker and leaves you hanging. There is also the fear that if the series isn’t continued, you may never know what happened or find yourself with a less than adequate ending.

5. The switcheroo

I enjoy diversity as much as the next person but when a character or storyline alters without a reasonable explanation, then it’s time to go. Usually literary trends facilitate this jump—authors and/or publishers determine that by adding in this miracle key element, they will open their books to a new fan base. When I’ve invested time and energy into a characters or storyline, I expect it to remain consistent. I want the series to get new fans, hence the reason I pimp my favorite series, but there are certain things that are just not cool. I don’t want a previously shy character to suddenly start sleeping with multiple people. I don’t want a my soulmates to add a third character to up the steam factor. I don’t think it’s reasonable for a vampire story to add an alien race. Spice up the series but don’t make it so confusing that your oldest fans have no idea what is going on anymore.

So what makes you want to break up with a series?

Goodbye image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

 


Tori Benson can be found at Smexybooks and at Twitter.

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31 comments
romance reader
1. bookstorecat
For reasons 1-3 at least, I guess you will not be swept away by George Martin's Song of Ice & Fire's current wave of popularity.
CatW
2. CatW
The Continuous Beatdown has turned me away from more than one series.

I recently gave up two series for not only breaking the rules of romance--but breaking them in a way that didn't make sense to me as a human being. The heroines in both series have declared themselves in love with the hero. And in both series they are attracted to/sleep with someone else. That happens. But it doesn't happen without even mentioning the love interest. No angst, no thought at all. WTH? The people I want to read about don't work like that.

I also have a very low tolerance for sexual violence. If it's closely intertwined with the plot for good reason, maybe. If it's gratuitous, or happens again and again, I will drop fast. I'm reading for entertainment, not be tortured by proxy. My husband is even worse about that--I now have to preview books for him, since rape is so common in the genre.
J.K. Hogan
3. jkhogan
For me, I don't like when the author alters the story to make it work out the way he or she wants, without it really making sense. Basically "breaking the rules." JR Ward is guilty of it, but the BDB is like a really hot dead beat boyfriend. Ya just can't break up with him.

Also, I don't like when a series drags on beyond the point where it should have ended. Several times. I love Sherrilyn Kenyon, but I don't think I have the fortitude to make it through Styxx.
CatW
4. Torifl
bookstorecat-I'm just not interested in jumpng on that bandwagon. I have the books though. Maybe someday.

CatW-OoooO I get so angry with that scene. If you love someone you should experience a least a twinge of guilt. Something.

jkhogan-LOL Some books just have such developed characters, you need to see what happens. I'm going to try and do Styxx but the whole Native American mythology introduction really turned me off. I'm so ready for Savi and Jaden's stories.
Lege Artis
5. LegeArtis
Great post,Tori.
Dragging love triangle - I am so tired of this. I don't want to read pages and pages of internal struggle and who is the right guy dilemma in every book of series.
The switcheroo- You are so right about this. I gave up on Estep's Elemental Assassin series because she changed Owen character in a way that's not consistent with previous books.
There is a lot of UF series I gave up lately...
CatW
6. Torifl
LegeArtis-Estep broke my heart with Owen's storyline. :( But I told her that and she promised me she would make it up to me. lol We shall see. The arc is still strong so I will continue for now.
CatW
7. Grace S
I hate to say it but lazy does it for me. Relative to the main characters having sex, I realize that there are only so many ways that Tab A can fit into Slot B. I get that description of said activity can only be written so many ways. However, if you have lifted entire paragraphs from the sex scenes in previous books, almost verbatim, you have lost me.

If the main arc in your storyline makes no freaking sense at all, I am done with you.

For me, this is Lora Leigh and how I feel about her recent series about the Callahans. The whole county is okay with people being murdered and driving three kids away? Everybody just goes along with harassing these 3 grown men? An entire county? Really? Also, there's just no believable backstory, we never really learn anything new and at this point, I don't care how it ends and refuse to even buy the last one.
maria babani
8. Chica8
"When the series begins to overflow with multiple characters, 3-4 additional arcs, and a few spin-offs, then this relationship has become too complicated and it’s time to leave." This is why I broke up with Black Dagger Brotherhood. I could never understand why J R Ward could not stay focused on the main couple. Years ago, when Dark Lover came out, I was so excited to find a new author and series. Slowly, I became disenchanted and regretted exposing so many family and friends to this series. I have not purchased the last 2 books and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. Addiction over!
CatW
9. pamelia
Let's see. I broke up with LKH's Anita Blake books because (IMH) she turned Anita from an interesting character with promise to a ho hum "ho" without any point except (it seems) fulfilling the author's fantasies of boinking everyone AND getting back at her ex through character assasination.
I broke up with the Sookie books after reading the prior two entries in the series and realizing all personality and charm had been stripped from the books and I didn't care what happened or who Sookie ended up with.
I'm on a break from the BDB books-- I stopped after "Lover Mine" because the follow up book was about characters I really didn't care about. I'll most likely catch up in a few years. Maybe.
Series that are still holding my affections are: The Dresden Files, The Kate Daniels books, Briggs' Mercy Thompson books, George RR Martins Song of Ice and Fire (although I might not live long enough to read the end of that series), both Nalini Singh series (Guildhunters and Psy/Changeling), Dianne Sylvan's Queen of Shadows books, Rowland's Kara Gillian books, and Kressley Cole's IAD books.
So, there are plenty of series still holding it together (as far as I'm concerned.)
Carmen Pinzon
10. bungluna
I continue to visit series, (through the library), with whom I would have broken up otherwise. The main sin for me is #3 and the "everything plus the kitchen sink" approach to story telling. I left Kenyon for this reason. If you start a series about vampires, finish that arc before you move on to the alliens, don't add them on top and prolong the thing beyond it's expiration date.
Patricia Wilkerson
11. Proofreaderpat
I left Maryjanice Davidson's Undead series because of the switcheroo.After Undead and Unwelcome,Betsy and Sinclair's relationship took a disturbing turn and totally turned me off the series.
Nicole Leapheart
12. BoxyFrown
I have only broken up with 2 long standing series:
Anita Blake- I was digging the urban fantasy kick ass heroine storyline! I love my smut, but when it turned into a smutfest and didn't move the story along, I was outta there.
Sherryln Kenyon- Oh boy. I left this series a while ago. I admire the gigantic world she has created, especially considering the first 2 books were textbook paranormal romance, but I just couldnt keep up. I still enjoy the first 6 or so books, and I read up to Acheron's book, but I really didn't care about most of the characters I had been meeting or ones that were getting books. I feel bad saying that! But...it's true.

I might go back to Anita, I have been getting the graphic novels, so we will see.
Liz
13. Lizzie Dee
Lack of focus kills it for me. That's what I feel is happening with the Anita Blake series. I have absolutely no idea where they story is going. Evey book just seems to be about who Anita's sleeping with these days, in what different combinations, and what new guy(s) is getting added to her brothel of men. But I can't break up with it yet - there's gotta be an endgame there somewhere!
Carmen Pinzon
14. bungluna
@Proofreaderpat- I left the Betsy series when it went so dark. If I start a series that's supposed to be funny I don't want to find myself in the middle of the angst somewhere down the line or vise versa.
CatW
15. Lizzie R
For me lack of focus is the main culprit. I like feeling that even tho' this is the 10th book in the series it's going somewhere - the idea that the author actually had a plan for the series when she wrote the first book. It's the reason I love Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series we're always closer the the end game and we know that there is an endgame.

JK Rowling really blew my mind when I read Harry Potter - all in a row - in 2009. I got to the last page before the epilogue of the Deathly Hallows and thought to myself - wow - she really knew exactly where she was going with this when she wrote the Philosopher's Stone.
I'm hoping GRR Martin knows where he's going too, because the series is great except for all the rambling of characters I'm not really into - but then again maybe those characters are other peoples favourites.

Other series that were firm favourites have lost some appeal because 10 books in I still have no idea where it's going. I worshipped at the pen of Kresley Cole through the first 6 or so books but after 12 or so installments we still have no idea of what's going down in the Accession.

I also find that I get invested in certain characters and find the wait for those stories while umpteen new characters are introduced and get there own book exasperating.
Ellen Hutchings
16. shadowmaster13
I read many, many series, mainly traditional romance series (new couple every book).

I get turned off on authors revisiting a HEA that was already finished (and if it wasn't that's a whole 'nother story).

One of my biggest pet peeve is when the series isn't consistent, in one book a rule is aaaaaaaaaa
But in the next one it's aaaaaaaaab. And not because the characters were wrong and the learn differently, the author just changed it to fit in with things.

Another peeve is when the world opens up to the point that the original characters that I loved become out-powered (in PNR) or just so far from the focus of the books that I'm not catching up with them anymore.

Since I want to cut back on my series I have a strict rule, if three books in a row fail to excite me it's over. I figure one bad book is a fluke, three is just bad.
CatW
17. SassyT
@jkhogan & chica8: I totally agree with you about JR Ward. She completely pulled the rug out from under us after she decided to go from PNR to UF. However, I seem to be a glutton for punishment so I kept reading the series. I didn't enjoy Butch/Marissa's book (at all) and V/Jayne's book was kind of a cop-out at the end. From there it was all downhill with just a glimpse here and there of what made me fall in love with the BDB in the first place. The last few books have been horrendous but I'm going to read Qhuay's book (grudgingly) to see if she can redeem herself. I introduced my best friend to the BDB, and she broke up with JR way back after V's book (she didn't bother reading Phury's book after I told her how bad it was). Smart woman.

@bungluna: The only reason I'm still reading JR is because it's at the library. I haven't spend a dime on her since she produced the travesty that was Phury's book.

@pamelia: I left LKH a long time ago. Once I realized she was turning Anita Blake from a really strong, cool woman to a sex toy. How did we go from no sex in the first couple of books to sex all the friggin' time? I like sex in my books but dang it she went way overboard.

I haven't broken up with Sherrilyn Kenyon yet (we are just on a break). But I haven't bothered reading the last book published in the series (Time Untime I think the title was). I feel she's added so many characters over the years that I can't even remember half of them. So, when a book comes out with them as the main characters I have to rack my brain trying to remember who the hell they are. For instance, it took me a while to even remember who Styxx was. So, I'm not all that excited about his book. I will be excited if she puts out another of her space series of books (sorry, mind drawing a blank on what they're called....which would suggest I don't really enjoy them but I do...I'm just getting old...so the memory is not so good...lol).
LoriK
18. LoriK
I love a good series, but when they go bad they tend to go really bad, and that's frustrating. This year is shaping up to be a break-up heavy year for me. I've already quit on 3 and I'm taking a break from 2 others. There was yet another series that finished, but if there had been another book I wouldn't have read it and another were the most recent book left me so POed I'm not sure if I'll read the next one when it comes out next year.

My most frequent reasons for dumping a series are:

-The love triangle that never ends. I'm not a fan of love triangles any way and when one goes on and on it leaves me sort of hating all 3 characters. It's hard for me to enjoy a story when my internal monolog is mostly, "Making up your damn mind, you selfish twit" or "For the love of FSM grow a spine and ome self-respect."

-The story is totally played out and yet the series just keeps going on and on. I start to feel like a sucker for giving it my time and money and I don't like feeling that way.

-The series has a new couple in each book, but all the couples are really just the same couple with different names. I recently broke up with one series where all the couples are related to or friends with each other and every single one of the men is bi, or bi-curious. Bisexuals exist, but come on.
Ellen Hutchings
19. shadowmaster13
@LoriK, or the new characters introduced are obviously being set up for the next book. What happened to meeting a character and getting to know them so you asked for their story?
That's what finally got me to stop reading Lori Foster, well that and the last series went downhill very fast.
CatW
20. Lionrock71
I find that I have to break up with a series when the author uses a charachter's fickleness as a way to produce 10+ more books for the sake of making money while burning the fewest calories possible. Janet Evanovich anyone?? After Hard Eight there was a real opportunity to do something great. She blew it. At this point I would settle for her veering into menage just to get Stephanie SOMEWHERE in a decision-making process. Isn't the character about in her 40s now?! Props to someone making a living, but laziness offends me. Also, I've come across new authors who basically took one full length ok novel and broke it up every couple of chapters to sell as separate e books. Those are chapters, not even short stories. THAT type of "cliffhanger" feels more like theft. Then there is Karen Marie Moning, Laurell Hamilton and the Sookie series author. I can't hang onto your characters' convoluted life plots forever while waiting for a publisher to push out the next installment. Especially once your writing gets a littlt hacky and overpriced. I divorce you! I like series, but I LOVE authors who write them in such a way that you could pick up any of them as your accidental starting point, get a feel for what's going on and be driven to read ALL of them immediately but in whatever order you want. Without making the "getting up to speed" part feel tedious. Kristen Ashley does that very well. On a lighter scale so do Lorelei James, Vivian Arend, GA Aiken/Shelly Laurenston, Kresley Cole and Anne Stuart (Ice series). Finally, I absolutely abhor re-releases under a new title/cover or really in general if they don't make it super-clear that it's a re-release. I fit this under series breakup because this happens with series and non-series alike. Especially given the advent of e-books because some of them don't even bother to update the content/lingo although it might be 15+ yrs old and it must be a fairly simple process. I watched the movie Argo and it drove me mad because I live in the land of convenience and iphones. But that was based on a true story and therefore assigned to a certain year. Don't try to pass off some book you wrote in the 90s as present day material. Romance writing and the world in general has just changed too much for that not to be an insult in most cases.
CatW
21. Lionrock71
One last thing I HATE! When an author does a pretty good job with a series (I'm thinking of old Elizabeth Lowell Donovan series but I'm sure there are others), but then something keeps them from finishing it. I think in her case she switched publishers or something, but she moved on to write some sub-par things instead, which made it more frustrating. If the authors/publishers want to push their old series (for the same price as a paperback BTW!) in the Kindle store, then why not self-publish or something and crank out the final books in a decently entertaining series??
CatW
22. Torifl
Lionrock71-I hate that with an unholy passion.
Sofia Altaf
23. Salt
I've had a parting of ways with several authors over the years, and when I see their next book, I may read the back blurb, but quickly move on as I remember why I broke up with them in the first place..

A series I loved initially was JD Robb's 'In Death' series, and after reading about Eve and Roake's romance and all the trials and tribulations, after book 14 (yep, I stuck with it that long) I was fed up with Eve's selfish ways..whilst everyone else was growing up and maturing and becoming 'better' people in the series, I felt that Eve's schtick with snarling at one and all and reluctance to grow as a person got very old very quickly..so as much as I miss Roarke (sigh) I coudn't stomach Eve.
Another Author I had to kick to the curb was Christine Feehan and her same ole same ole Carpathian series..if I come across one more cave where the 2 lead charachters hole up, and that cave just happens to have a hot spring rock pool in it, I might just kill someone..

JR Ward and I are still friends with benefits, in that I will stick with her Fallen Angels series, but I refuse to read anymore of the BDB stuff...I hate what she has done to the series which was a fantastic spin on the whole Vampire world, but when she took it from romance to urban fantasy and started introducing all these other characters that I really don't care about, without even resolving the issues with the current crop, well than she lost me...

I LOVE Nalini Singh who seems to know exactely where she is going with her Psy/Changeling series, and I will stick with her whilst she finishes the current arc, as she know's how to keep a reader engaged and happy, and she has also done this with the Guild Hunter series, and also Dyranda Jones is another author's books I cannot wait to read, as well as Maya Banks KGI series, and Abigail Roux with her Cut and Run series.
Patricia Wilkerson
24. Proofreaderpat
@Salt:I chuckled when I read your comment about Christine Feehan's hot spring rock pool caves.That is so true!:)
CatW
25. tara_ohsnap
I am about to give up on Faith Hunter's Skinwalker series. I love Jane, but she is just constantly getting beat down. I can understand a beatdown in one book, but I think it has just been constant since the third book and I just want something good to happen to Jane.
CatW
26. Desiree M.
There have been a couple series I've broken up with over the years.

Anita Blake - I was just done. Granted I wasn't a huge AB fan to begin with but I enjoyed the first 10-12 books but I reached Blood Noir and couldn't finish it. The character use to be a fairly interesting character. Had flaws, strength's, and weaknesses but as the series continued she got to be the strongest woman on the block, could do no wrong, and got out of every scrape with little or no damage. Plus with so many interchangeable male characters showing up but not contributing much of anything to the story except to be Anita's latest harem boy. And the fact that I hardly remembered anybody except a few characters here and there with any kind of clarity I waved goodbye and was happy I wasn't reading the series any longer.

BDB - I loved the first 3, I liked 4, semi-tolerated 5, passionately hated 6, breathed a sigh of mostly satisfied relief with 7, and became largely indifferent to 8 & 9. The females of the series annoy me to a certain extent, none of them (IMO) have vibrant personalities. Some I can see a bit of a spark but I'm mostly bored with the women in the BDB world. The massive amounts of storylines not focusing on the couple of the book drive me insane, I don't mind a couple chapters here and there giving me a bit of glimpse into other characters lives but when half or over half of the book is focused on other people than who the back blurb is about I get frustrated. Although I have dumped this series I am considering a brief fling with the upcoming book, it's supposed to be about Wrath and Beth again so I'm thinking about reading their parts and their parts only.

There are also some that are on the bubble for me.

Carpathian/Dark series - I feel like I've been reading the same book repeatedly, except for Dark Slayer which I thought was a refreshing change, every other one so far has been similar enough where I'm skimming a lot. And I'm not a big fan of how much Feehan describes things. I love description but with Feehan I'm at the point where I skip huge chunks of paragraphs to try and find an interesting tidbit of story. I might read Zacarias book because I've read he's supposed to be kind of psycho and that might be interesting, I'm also going to definitely read Skyler and Dimitri's book, I've (and many others) have been waiting for 12 years for that one. But after that I think I might be officially done.

Merry Gentry - Another LKH series that is dangerously on the bubble, I plan on reading Lick of Frost but the last two I read I was so bored with and the point of book 5 just seemed to be getting Merry to have sex with 3 characters she hadn't yet and I wrote a long review giving my complaints about Mistral's Kiss and why I'm so close to giving up on this series.

Thankfully there are still a lot of series out there that I'm enjoying and hope to enjoy for years to come. IAD/Dacians by Kresley Cole, Kate Daniels/World of Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson/Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs, Psy-Changeling/Guild Hunter by Nalini Singh, I-Team by Pamela Clare, Dark Hunter/Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon (have a couple issues here and there with this series but I still enjoy it), Lords of the Underworld by Gena Showalter, and Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt.
Renee Moore
27. Nae28
I don't really break-up with series. I just don't read the book straight away (if ever), I put it in my TBR pile and I'll read it later when I feel like it. Ha! My main reason's for putting the book in my TBR is inconsistancy, never getting a happy ending and I hate the stangancy of charcaters as well. I love the Lupi series by Elieen Wilks, Chicagoland by Chloe Neill, Jim Butcher, Ilona Andrews, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Anne Bishop, plus more.
Sandy Pants
28. SandyPants
@Grace S. Oh yes, the Callahan series. Great example.. (and not very well written IMO).

BDB series lost me and the second to last one I can't even bring myself to read it. For me, I have loved each book a little less than the one previous. Although, not always, a couple wiere stinkers, which broke my heart as I started off loving that series.

Oh and the money suck .. Multiple books when left with a cliffhanger and even I could tell another book wasn't necessary, it could have been condensed
CatW
29. Shark with Lasers
I, too, have had to quite AB. The character started out as the ultimate underdog and eventually became the top dog. That was actually a believable progression and consistent with the character's arc, but once she stopped fighting the power and became the power, it seemed like a natural stopping point yet the books kept coming. I've seen other authors introduce a greater power to raise the stakes, and I did keep reading a couple more books in the series to see if LKH would do this as well, but none of her pack ever dies anymore, not even the ones she clearly doesn't like. If you know that nobody is seriously at risk, why keep reading? Urban fantasy is all about the great personal risk to the main character's loved ones but this series doesn't have that element anymore, so it can't sustain my interest anymore.
CatW
30. Torifl
tara_ohsnap-I just want Jane to PICK SOMEONE. Anyone. I hate her beast is not monogomous. That's aconvenient e, 25, 14)">
I left the Carpathian series when her abusive creepy males were given excuses and a feree pass for their bad behavior. I don't care if your fading, you don't do THAT.
CatW
31. nl_booker
I left many of the same series already listed, for the same reasons already given. The first series I walked away from was Anita Blake for turning a great female character into what Pamelia called a"ho hum "ho" (loved that phrasing). I remember one of her most memorable and sexiest scenes in an early book (maybe #3?) had no virtually no sex, just Jean-Claude and a bathtub.
After that, it became easier… Sherrilyn Kenyon … loved the first few books then I don’t know what happened. I stuck around until Acheron but that book was the final nail in the coffin & killed it for me. MaryJanice Davidson’s dark turn… yikes, where was the fun in that? Charlaine Harris stopped being fun a couple books back but I will finish the series since there is only one book left.
I admire Kelley Armstrong for closing down her ‘Otherworld’ franchise while it was still interesting. I love those books. Same Kudos to Ilona Andrews for putting the Edge Series on a sabbatical to explore new worlds. Am still loving their Kate Daniels series. Magic Rises in July – woohoo!
I noticed people who left the same series I did for the same reasons are sticking with Harry Dresdon. I loved these books but somewhere along the way, Harry jumped the shark…. Like the book where he was a ghost the whole time…. I mean, really? A ghost? The last ghost I found interesting was the sea captain in the ‘Ghost & Mrs. Muir’ (And now I really dating myself :) ) My brother tells me the Harry books gets good again so I might give him another shot…
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