The Vinyl Underground
Dig it. During the tumultuous year of 1968, four teens are drawn together: Ronnie Bingham, who is grieving his brother’s death in Vietnam; Milo, Ronnie’s bookish best friend; “Ramrod,” a star athlete who is secretly avoiding the draft; and Hana, the new girl, a half-Japanese badass rock-n-roller whose presence doesn’t sit well with their segregated high school. The four outcasts find sanctuary in “The Vinyl Underground,” a record club where they spin music, joke, debate, and escape the stifling norms of their small southern town. But Ronnie’s eighteenth birthday is looming. Together, they hatch a plan to keep Ronnie from being drafted. But when a horrific act of racial-charged violence rocks the gang to their core, they decide it’s time for an epic act of rebellion.

The Vinyl Underground Details

TitleThe Vinyl Underground
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 3rd, 2020
PublisherFlux
Rating
GenreYoung Adult, Historical, Historical Fiction

The Vinyl Underground Review

  • Whitney
    January 1, 1970
    Ya girl has issues with requesting arcs and TOTALLY forgetting the premise of them by the time approval sets in cause I remember this was centered around music but not Vietnam I started to read this and was instantly turned off, DESPITE REQUESTING, and almost put it down because I’m not one for historical fiction centered around a war. Instead, I pushed on and I am so glad that I did because this book was absolutely phenomenal!Like I said, I’m not one for historical fiction centered around a Ya girl has issues with requesting arcs and TOTALLY forgetting the premise of them by the time approval sets in cause I remember this was centered around music but not Vietnam 😂😂 I started to read this and was instantly turned off, DESPITE REQUESTING, and almost put it down because I’m not one for historical fiction centered around a war. Instead, I pushed on and I am so glad that I did because this book was absolutely phenomenal!Like I said, I’m not one for historical fiction centered around a war but this one took an anti-Vietnam stance so I was super intrigued when that sentiment became the forefront of the book. I really enjoyed that it not only took that stand but it did so without shaming the soldiers who were forced to go over there and serve, which if you know anything about the Vietnam War, was a huge thing that happened back in the day. Soldiers who came back traumatized were further traumatized by anti-war protesters despite some not even wanting to go in the first place. The characters themselves were super fun to read about. Each one had their own distinct personality, voice, and taste in music. Here lately I’ve been reading a lot of books where the MC is well fleshed out but the side characters really aren’t and that isn’t the case with this novel at all. We get a bit of each characters backstory as well as plans for the future once the book starts coming to the end. I really loved that aspect of the book and though Rob did an excellent job with it.There is a lot of racism discussion and honestly, I was very apprehensive about this considering it is a book set in the ‘60s and those times were not at all friendly to anyone not white or American or, quite frankly, male. Again, Rob did a good job handling it! The MC was called out on his shitty behavior when it happened, he learned, he grew. A lot of 2019 woke-ness makes appearances in the book but it’s done in such a way that I really enjoyed. I mean, obviously not every white person in the ‘60′s was bigoted and racist so it’s plausible that some actually stood up and fought back, but I had never encountered that in a novel so I was extremely happy to see that aspect in a ‘60′s based story.As a matter of fact, besides the anti-Vietnam War theme, racism and bigotry is talked about a lot. The only female, Hana, in the group is half-Japanese, a badass, and has NO QUALMS with calling her friends out on their shitty behavior. Not only that but she isn’t hypersexualized as a lot of novels tend to do for Asian women. Hana’s this super smart, aspiring journalist with excellent taste in fashion and music. She isn’t just there to teach them not to be bigots. She’s got her own distinct point in the book.This is what I’m saying when I say the side characters are well fleshed out! There was once instance that was extremely hard to read so trigger warning for that because it involves racist induced violence and it really turned my stomach to read on the page. I’m not saying anything else because of spoilers but be mindful it’s there.There is also a teeny tiny hint of romance to the novel. It’s really more of a blink and you miss it kind of thing. Honestly, I could’ve done without it. The book stood up very well on it’s own without having to add it in at the end. All in all, I really enjoyed the book and will be purchasing my own copy when it comes out.
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  • Roberta R. (Offbeat YA)
    January 1, 1970
    Rated 3.5 really.TVU is the vivid, pulsing portrait of an age (1968 - the Vietnam war, Martin Luther King's assassination, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, the magic of rock'n'roll) and a heartfelt friendship story featuring four relatable (if a bit too fond of doing drugs, but hey, it's the psychedelic era, folks) 17 y.o. kids - and look! they're three guys and a girl! And of course it helps that she's a tough one, but she never really feels like "one of the boys". It's also a story Rated 3.5 really.TVU is the vivid, pulsing portrait of an age (1968 - the Vietnam war, Martin Luther King's assassination, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, the magic of rock'n'roll) and a heartfelt friendship story featuring four relatable (if a bit too fond of doing drugs, but hey, it's the psychedelic era, folks) 17 y.o. kids - and look! they're three guys and a girl! And of course it helps that she's a tough one, but she never really feels like "one of the boys". It's also a story about being brave and foolish and full of messy feelings and inconsiderate, the way only real teens can be. Fresh, original and compelling, though I would have liked to "feel" the characters a little more.Full review to come on February 10th. Thank you NetGalley and North Star Editions/Flux!
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  • Queen Cronut
    January 1, 1970
    Set in 1960-era America, The Vinyl Underground follows four outcast teens and the companionship they share through their record club called The Vinyl Underground. Ronnie's older brother, Bruce has been killed in the Vietnam War, leaving Ronnie to cope with his loss and with high school graduation approaching, his father is determined to send his other son to fight overseas. Meanwhile, Hana, a Japanese girl with radically progressive ideas, moves next door to Ronnie and is often subject to racial Set in 1960-era America, The Vinyl Underground follows four outcast teens and the companionship they share through their record club called The Vinyl Underground. Ronnie's older brother, Bruce has been killed in the Vietnam War, leaving Ronnie to cope with his loss and with high school graduation approaching, his father is determined to send his other son to fight overseas. Meanwhile, Hana, a Japanese girl with radically progressive ideas, moves next door to Ronnie and is often subject to racial slurs in school. Together, with Ronnie's best friend, Milo and Bruce's best friend, Lewis, they form The Vinyl Underground, bonded by their love of music.The setting is vivid- Rufus does an excellent job weaving in pop culture and music references into this novel and discussing prejudice, racism, and grief/healing. Courage plays a huge role in this book and it was interesting to see what courage meant to each of the characters. An interesting historical fiction YA novel with themes that remain relevant today.*Thank you to NetGalley and North Star Editions publishers for providing a free ARC
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  • Tanvi
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley and Flux for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.Who knew such an unassuming cover could hide such a cracker of a book? Rufus makes writing look like a Sunday stroll. Seriously, if I could sum up this book in three words it’d be ‘bloody good writing.’ I don’t just want to buy this book, I want to give it to everyone I know and then commission a press release to talk about how good it is. Unfortunately, I only know about four people and none of them like YA, which is a Thanks to Netgalley and Flux for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.Who knew such an unassuming cover could hide such a cracker of a book? Rufus makes writing look like a Sunday stroll. Seriously, if I could sum up this book in three words it’d be ‘bloody good writing.’ I don’t just want to buy this book, I want to give it to everyone I know and then commission a press release to talk about how good it is. Unfortunately, I only know about four people and none of them like YA, which is a crying shame because this is the best YA book I’ve read since The Book Thief. I’m not trying to imply that writing a YA book is somehow easier than writing one for adults, by the way. Reading one, however, is an exercise fraught with love triangles and swooning Mary Sues these days. What a relief to read a YA (or indeed, any) novel where finding one’s true love isn’t either the answer to some kind of life-threatening illness or just something someone does because the Powers that Be have decreed it and singleness is anathema.The Vinyl Underground hooked me from the first line, “Free love is bullshit.” Bang: 60s vibe. Short, snappy, crisp. There was no posturing, no purple prose, no minefields of metaphor or overdescription. Just straight into the story. The dialogue sounded real, right down to idioms such as “Give your momma some sugar” and the sentences were short and clear. I can’t emphasise enough how seamless the narration and the plot were and how authentic the characters’ voices sounded. That’s one of my dealbreakers: if I’m meant to be reading a thirty-year-old man and he sounds sixty, then I put the book down. Too many adults write YA books that don’t reflect the way teenagers actually talk.The constant references to segregation and real-life events, such as the Jacksonville riots of 1964, situated the story firmly in the 60s. And, of course, the war letters from Ronnie’s brother, who’s a casualty of the war, and the technology, and all the music.The storyline, too, was topical: four teenagers use a little Thursday-night record-swapping and a lot of weed to build a sanctuary and a campaign, in their own small way, against the Vietnam War and the government that sanctioned it. Or, as the characters themselves put it, against “the man”. The four main characters’ dislike of it never feels artificial- they all have compelling reasons, like Ronnie, not to want to go to war. Or, rather, their hatred of war shines out of the pages. From the beginning, there are high personal stakes because they’re all the right age to be drafted into the war, complete with early incentives (I had no idea high school students were drafted into the Vietnam War). Then we have Ronnie, freshly plunged into grief for his older brother, who has just died in Vietnam, and under pressure from his wrestling-coach, ex-US-Army father to do the manly thing and enlist early, before his upcoming birthday. Against this background, then, there are clear risks for Ronnie in joining a pacifist group, even one engaged in such a small act of rebellion as listening to records. And these pan out, but not in ways that the audience - or even the characters - expect.From our second encounter with Hana, the new girl in town, it’s clear that she is ambitious, intelligent, courageous, passionately and vocally anti-war and anti-US, and mad about records, just from the description of her room. All the generalised racism in the background of the book, including the mentions of segregation, takes on a personal dimension when it’s focused in on this one character. It’s hard to describe what I liked about her, because she could come off as a bit of a Mary Sue. She holds her own in a fight, but the real drawcard for me was her ambition. She isn’t just driven, she’s articulate, strident about her opinions (justifiably so) and she doesn’t hesitate to stand up and protest against injustice. She’s an admirable, well-rounded character and a deserving heroine.The other two characters were equally distinctive.If this review sounds like damning with faint praise, believe me, it isn’t. I’m just having a hard time articulating exactly what I loved about this story.
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  • Addie_read_this
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Netgally and the publisher for giving me a digital Arc to read and review.The Vinyl Underground is set in 1968, during the peak of the Vietnam war. Ronnie's brother Bruce died during the war and he really doesn't want to sign up for the draft.This book is the first book I've ever read that has a anti-Vietnam stance. That really interested me as I personally think that the whole draft was wrong and the Vietnam war should have been over way sooner.The writing style of this book really Thank you Netgally and the publisher for giving me a digital Arc to read and review.The Vinyl Underground is set in 1968, during the peak of the Vietnam war. Ronnie's brother Bruce died during the war and he really doesn't want to sign up for the draft.This book is the first book I've ever read that has a anti-Vietnam stance. That really interested me as I personally think that the whole draft was wrong and the Vietnam war should have been over way sooner.The writing style of this book really got me. I started it out of boredom, but I finished the book in one sitting. I will be buying this book when it comes out.The book also deals with racism and hate crimes. It is sad to read about, but it was the reality in that time. The way it slips into the story is just so well written. There is also a hint of romance, but it is not the main focus of the book.The thing I liked most in this book was the way that records were the main point of the stories. Bruce send letters that should be read while listening to a song. I might go back to the book and read the letters while listening to the music.I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars!
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  • Caroline
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this book and its themes! I also enjoyed getting to experience a story in a time period that I'm less familiar with. While I'm glad the main characters came out on top, I'm not a fan of their methods. I'm with Ronnie when he was feeling conflicted at the end—what they did was honestly pretty cruel (my squeamish self was pretty disturbed by it), but I also understand that feeling of powerlessness, when you want so badly for something big to change but know that writing letters to your I enjoyed this book and its themes! I also enjoyed getting to experience a story in a time period that I'm less familiar with. While I'm glad the main characters came out on top, I'm not a fan of their methods. I'm with Ronnie when he was feeling conflicted at the end—what they did was honestly pretty cruel (my squeamish self was pretty disturbed by it), but I also understand that feeling of powerlessness, when you want so badly for something big to change but know that writing letters to your congress rep is probably useless. I did enjoy the book overall though and definitely felt personally for Ronnie as he grieved his brother's death. (Not a spoiler, btw ;))
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  • Jazlyn
    January 1, 1970
    A righteous book that combines the art of music with the cruelty, violence, and pain of the Vietnam war, and the discrimination in the 60’s. With the use of flamboyant language and and a slew of 60’s slang; I knew exactly when and where I was.
  • Jade - theelderbooks
    January 1, 1970
    Even though the whole story is set during the 60's, I still qualify this book as a contemporary. Which makes me say it's the first contemporary I truly enjoyed in over a year !Ronnie, Milo, Lewis and Hana, 4 teens in Florida make up The Vinyl Underground, a club in which they can express themselves and gather around music. Together, they have to face the unfairness of the Vietnam war looming over them, and which has already taken Ronnie's brother, fight against the racism that Hana receives Even though the whole story is set during the 60's, I still qualify this book as a contemporary. Which makes me say it's the first contemporary I truly enjoyed in over a year !Ronnie, Milo, Lewis and Hana, 4 teens in Florida make up The Vinyl Underground, a club in which they can express themselves and gather around music. Together, they have to face the unfairness of the Vietnam war looming over them, and which has already taken Ronnie's brother, fight against the racism that Hana receives every day, and generally find a way to steer in this life where so many things seem unjust.It was the first time I read about teens in the 60's, and their views on the Vietnam war. I thought it was a really well written book, that propels the reader back in time. The 4 main characters bond together through the music Ronnie's brother left behind, as well as their dream of peace. To emphasize that, when the club meets, they listen to vinyls, and often Ronnie's brother's vinyls, that are paired with letter he sent from the war. That was something I really loved and found touching.Hana, clearly the leader of the club is a fierce lady, and an activist for peace. She is the catalyst that makes Ronnie, Lewis and Milo really think about the war, and the probability that THEY could be drafted soon after school ends. She was definitely my favorite character of the book. Generally, the way the 4 characters are loyal to each other is heart-warming and I truly felt their friendship seeping though the pages. They're adorable badass characters. Yes, that's possible.To prevent Ronnie from being drafted, and help Hana regarding the everyday racism she faces, to make the world they live in more just, the Vinyl Underground gathers, makes plans, dreams of a better world, and most of all, takes action. And that my friends, makes for an amazing book, filled with emotions and powerful messages. I truly hope you will all like this book <3
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  • Kate Larkindale
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this piece of historical fiction. Set in 1968, Ronnie's brother, Bruce, has recently been killed in Vietnam. Now he's about to graduate and the draft hangs over him. Despite having already lost one son to the war, Ronnie's father is determined to see his second son honor the country with his service too.When Ronnie meets Hana, the new girl who moves in across the street, his thinking begins to change. She's half-Japanese and faces daily slurs about her race at the I really enjoyed this piece of historical fiction. Set in 1968, Ronnie's brother, Bruce, has recently been killed in Vietnam. Now he's about to graduate and the draft hangs over him. Despite having already lost one son to the war, Ronnie's father is determined to see his second son honor the country with his service too.When Ronnie meets Hana, the new girl who moves in across the street, his thinking begins to change. She's half-Japanese and faces daily slurs about her race at the still-segregated school they attend in small-town Florida. Having come from Chicago, Hana has new ideas about the war and justice and many other things Ronnie has never thought about before.Along with Ronnie's best friend, Milo, and Bruce's best friend Lewis, Ronnie and Hana start up a club, The Vinyl Underground, as a way to share the music all four kid love. But their weekly meetings become more politically charged as the conversation flows. Before too long, the group have come up with an audacious plan to keep Ronnie from being drafted.Things should calm down for Ronnie once the threat of going to war is lifted from his future, but instead, an act of racially charged violence shatters their tight-knit group and together they plan an act of revenge that may just change the lives of their peers forever.The characters in this book feel very real and complex. They are children, yet face the very real possibility of being sent to a foreign country to be killed. How they are expected to go to school and study the heroics of American politicians in the face of this level of terror is beyond me. This would have been a very real fear at this time, and I loved how creative these characters are in their planning.I would definitely recommend this one, even if you're not interested in historical fiction. The themes explored here are just a relevant today.I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review, so thanks, NetGalley!
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  • Grace
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this free electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book started out slow for me. However, once the story really got going I felt it was the type of YA novel that was needed. It talks about how different people handle grief, how great friendships are formed and how even if the adults in your life don't seem to care, they really do. This book touches on the struggles of life and offers an honest perspective on both the good and bad parts of Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this free electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book started out slow for me. However, once the story really got going I felt it was the type of YA novel that was needed. It talks about how different people handle grief, how great friendships are formed and how even if the adults in your life don't seem to care, they really do. This book touches on the struggles of life and offers an honest perspective on both the good and bad parts of life. While YA readers may not be able to directly connect with the idea of Vietnam and the draft lottery, they can connect with the ideas of racial discrimination, preferential treatment, privilege and other topics that are present within the book. Rob Rufus does a great job at acknowledging the fact that people can be ignorant without even realizing they are. One of my favorite topics that this book talked about is the idea of courage and what it means to be courageous. There are many different characters throughout the novel and all have a different idea, none of which were necessarily wrong. It showed that courage means different things to different people and that it is okay to not feel the same way as someone else, as long as you remain true to what you believe and respect the beliefs of others. Hopefully this book is able to show young readers that it is okay to believe in different things and be passionate about those things so long as they are conscious of the beliefs of others and are respectful towards those beliefs.
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  • Kacey
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinion was not affected by the free copy.This is exactly the sort of YA novel we need out in the world right now. It talks of rebellion and hope, of different layers of courage, it shows that some adults actually care and are involved (even if they are misguided at times), it depicts great friendships, it touches on grief and the struggles of life, and it's honest about both the good Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinion was not affected by the free copy.This is exactly the sort of YA novel we need out in the world right now. It talks of rebellion and hope, of different layers of courage, it shows that some adults actually care and are involved (even if they are misguided at times), it depicts great friendships, it touches on grief and the struggles of life, and it's honest about both the good and the bad. I requested this book because I'm a music nerd and anything with music as a focal point is good by me, but also because of the point in history this is focusing on.Like I said, it's very honest about things. It goes into segregation and racial discrimination, it shows preferential treatment and privilege, and it acknowledges how many times people are unknowingly ignorant about things or not speaking up even when they feel there is injustice in the world. To me it didn't feel like those who were ignorant and not speaking up were bad, just that they needed their eyes opened. I like that though these friends fight and disagree, they come back together to talk about it. And as I mentioned, I liked the examination of courage and how there are many different ways of showing it. There are many ways one can stand up for what they believe in and have their voices be heard. I hope this book inspires everyone who reads it to find their way, and to find their courage.
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  • Erin Moulton
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley for the early look!I loved this book. 4.5 stars.It's 1968 and Ronnie is grieving his older brother's death in Vietnam as his 18th birthday, and the draft, loom large in front of him. He spends time wrestling, working at the movie theater, playing his brother's records and reading the letters he sent during the war. Soon, Japanese-American high schooler, music lover and activist, Hana, enters his life and he and a few other outcasts form The Vinyl Underground: A club where Thanks to Netgalley for the early look!I loved this book. 4.5 stars.It's 1968 and Ronnie is grieving his older brother's death in Vietnam as his 18th birthday, and the draft, loom large in front of him. He spends time wrestling, working at the movie theater, playing his brother's records and reading the letters he sent during the war. Soon, Japanese-American high schooler, music lover and activist, Hana, enters his life and he and a few other outcasts form The Vinyl Underground: A club where they listen to music and talk about how to damn the man (and how to get Ronnie to fail his enlistment exam). This book has lovely spare prose and a built in soundtrack as Ronnie's love of music spills out of the page. It is a book with heavy intersecting subjects but reads quite quickly given its spare writing and voice. Listen to more thoughts on the 11/27 Teen Title Talk. https://teentitletalk.podbean.com/Well worth your time.
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  • Meliciousbeauty
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a beautiful description of growing up in the late 60's when everyone was reeling from the devastating affects of the Vietnam war as well as the assassination of MLK Jr. When the grass roots movements were formed and the people wanted to try to make a change in the world.This book follows 4 boys who each have their own demons to wrestle, but connect through their love of music. The vinyl underground drew me in from the first page and I couldn't put it down.The author (rufus) has a This book is a beautiful description of growing up in the late 60's when everyone was reeling from the devastating affects of the Vietnam war as well as the assassination of MLK Jr. When the grass roots movements were formed and the people wanted to try to make a change in the world.This book follows 4 boys who each have their own demons to wrestle, but connect through their love of music. The vinyl underground drew me in from the first page and I couldn't put it down.The author (rufus) has a way of weaving in an incredible story with pop culture references and music to make it relatable to teens growing up 50 years later.**Thank you to netgalley for the free arc in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Christy
    January 1, 1970
    I have waited for this for more than 2 years....EXCITED
  • Raathi Chota
    January 1, 1970
    For twenty-four chapters, it’s written at a good pace with rising tension, conflict and resolution visible. Rufus does a good job constructing a novel with such controversial themes that’s still applicable in today’s society. Taking place in the USA (1968) yet revolving around the Vietnam war and how our protagonist, Ronnie, deals with the death of his older brother, Bruce after being drafted and killed in the war. I loved how Rufus covered all the grief and problems that the characters go For twenty-four chapters, it’s written at a good pace with rising tension, conflict and resolution visible. Rufus does a good job constructing a novel with such controversial themes that’s still applicable in today’s society. Taking place in the USA (1968) yet revolving around the Vietnam war and how our protagonist, Ronnie, deals with the death of his older brother, Bruce after being drafted and killed in the war. I loved how Rufus covered all the grief and problems that the characters go through, with pop culture. Hence, The Vinyl Underground. Music brought them together, it’s what still made them teenagers through the difficult times.Hana, the Japanese girl is the key to the story. She brings out the racist slurs portrayed on Asians that time being assumed bad as the Vietnamese. Yet Hana is the character we need to shut up people like that! Any chance she got, she stood up and spoke her truth. Nothing got in her way. She was a bad bitch, the kind that you wanted to be like. In her leather jacket and cigarettes galore, nothing stopped her from speaking her mind. It was hard for me to picture Ronnie; it described him to have a gruff voice… other than that; I enjoyed the story from his eyes. The stages of grief, not only him but his father went through. It was important to see the father’s development as back then, fathers were very persistent to their sons doing the ‘manly’ thing for the pride and family. I loved that subplot of Ronnie not wanting to end up like his brother. Milo and Lewis were the greatest friends! Ronnie’s dad was the coach, so he wasn’t exactly an outsider, he climbed the ladder of hierarchy thanks to his dad and Lewis being the captain. The friend group and connection between the three of them, including Hana, was original. They each fought for what they believed in but still came together to help each other. It’s an inspirational story with strong themes and emotional characters. I hope I can purchase a copy and recommend it to everyone I know!
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