Cover Image: Surrender Your Sons

Surrender Your Sons

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Member Reviews

Wow! This book totally had me on the edge of my seat. SYS is a heavy book, and I enjoyed it though the abusive aspects really tore me apart emotionally--be advised to check out the CWs if you need re: suicide, panic attacks, mental/physical punishment, etc. I honestly can't believe that conversion camps still exist in this world. They're despicable and should be outlawed. I really hope books like SYS will help bring an end to such practices.

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I went back and forth on how to rate this book and I hate that we rate books at all. But here we are.

Going into SURRENDER YOUR SONS, I was actually expecting something along the line of Lord of the Flies or Wilder Girls but with queer people. Although it did tap into some violent situations, it did not give me the same horror vibe. But that's on me. My expectations could transform into a thousand balloons and carry my house away via UP style.


When Conner's first-ever boyfriend forces him to "come out" to his super religious mother, he finds himself being basically kidnapped and sent to Costa Rica to what appears to be a gay conversion camp called Nightlight. The events leading up to his scary situation include a shady Reverand and a Meals on Wheels job which includes delivering to a handicapped man named Ricky who leaves a cryptic note on a playbill upon his death.

Connor soon finds out Ricky's note contains the name of the "summer camp" Connor is dragged to. Soon, he hooks up with Marco, Molly, Drew, and a few other queer kids in the same situation and digs further into the mystery that is Nightlight and what really happened to Ricky.

The one (or two) complaint I had was that I wasn't completely sold on why Connor cared so much about Ricky. But I think part of me knew that he was just a way to take down the camp indirectly and directly. Also, things move very quickly in the book. I was surprised when only 24 hours have passed at one point. It felt like at least a few days.

The B characters felt a little flat as if they could be each other and I'd never know the difference. But they serve well in giving Connor a sense of community after feeling so lost and alone after the rejection of his own mother.

All in all, I think this was a good book that will resonate with lots of people. Its raw honesty will make this a memorable debut.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy.

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Surrender your sons is one of most anticipated reads and I was so Happy to have the chance to read it. Adam Sass wrote a story able to make you angry, upset, hopeful, in love and ready to Scream at the same time. The characters are Absolutely relatable, complex and impossible not to love. Even the "villains" are almost relatable with their pasts and traumas. This book is a gem

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I read this book a few months back as an eARC and I think about it to this point. This book is absolutely amazing and I loved it.
It like breaks you really and you start to think about life, love, friendship, religion, the society and so much more. I would have liked if the author would have focussed on the religion part a bit more, but that's just a small thing I would have found really interesting to know more about.
I loved reading it even though it was really hard to do sometimes. I felt with the characters, eventhough I can never fully understand what they must have been going through.
But don't get me wrong it wasn't a really sad book all the time (although it really is sometimes), but also funny and just urgh just read it. I would absolutely recommend it!


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“I wish being gay was more fun.”

**Content warning for homophobic violence, including conversion “therapy,” child abuse, suicide, and murder. **

Boyishly proud of his discovery, Marcos beams, but where his heart has lifted, mine weighs heavier.

It’s another Winner’s Wall.

Instead of pictures, our sanctum’s black wall is covered with chalk-drawn hearts, and at the foot of the wall lies a pile of powdery-white limestones . “Have you ever seen this before?” I ask, approaching with the same awe and trepidation as when Marcos brought me to the Winner’s Wall. He doesn’t respond. His smile fallen, he presses his hand to one of the chalk hearts. Inside it are four letters: MK + CR. “Initials?”

Each batch of initials is different: TB + KW, KS + DA, MR + ASZ On and on, they fill dozens of hearts, climbing the cave into darkened corners that even our tiki lamp can’t reach. […]

Nightlight tried to snuff it out, but love grew. Love found its way to the island, and this sanctuary made it possible. Whoever first transcribed their initials into a heart started a chain reaction that led to an entirely different Winner’s Wall. In the cabin, the Winner’s Wall of “successful” Nightlight graduates is a depressing monument to control and domination. But this wall is an anthem of wild, unchained resistance.


They’re soaking wet in their swim trunks, pure joy in their eyes, unmarred by time, unaware of the savage future waiting for them. They were friends. The cruelty singes my lungs black. My eyes burn with tears. They’re dead. They don’t need to be, this didn’t need to happen. I wrestle with the unfair weight and constraints of time—I’m furious at my body for not being able to instantly travel back in time, right now, and rescue those boys on the dock.


YA novels centered around conversion therapy camps are an insta-read for me, if only because I’m appalled (though not entirely shocked) that such places still exist. Euphemistically referred to as “reparative therapy,” conversion “therapy” purports to “cure” its LGBTQ “patients” of their sexual “deviancy” (read: queerness) using a variety of methods that range from emotional and psychological to outright physical abuse. On the “milder” end, you have psychological “counseling” (read: bullying), religious indoctrination, visualization, and gender role performance; among the more extreme abuse that’s been documented is chemical castration, aversive treatments (e.g., the pairing of electric shocks or drug-induced nausea with same-sex pornography), and even ice pick lobotomies. Though it’s been rejected by nearly every reputable medical and psychological organization as pseudoscience and child abuse, currently only twenty US states ban conversion therapy on minors.

Conversion therapy is a horror story that all but writes itself – and yet Adam Sass delivers a cleverly unique take on the story with his debut novel, SURRENDER YOUR SONS. Part THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (hey, it’s the gold standard! THE SUMMER I WASN'T ME works too.), part murder mystery (Agatha Christie? idk, I don’t read a ton from this group. The nonfiction UNFINISHED LIVES or INDECENT ADVANCES might be better points of comparison.), with just a touch of Billy Porter’s flair sprinkled throughout (the author’s name is kind of perfect, because his MC can be sassy AF, providing much-needed moments of levity), SURRENDER YOUR SONS is equal parts frightening and funny.

It’s the summer before senior year, and Connor Major’s life is not going according to plan. He recently came out to his parental unit Marcia, a single mom and the most evangelical of the zealots residing in his adopted home town of Ambrose, Illinois. She was okay-ish, if a bit icy, at first – but when she found out that Connor also had a boyfriend, a real-life, flesh and blood partner with whom to have sexyfuntimes, Marcia straight up lost her ship: she confiscated Connor’s phone, followed by his laptop and Wifi. He’s effectively grounded for the duration of the summer, except for his Meals on Wheels deliveries, helpfully coordinated by the Majors’ only neighbor (and Marcia’s doomed crush), Reverend Packard. He’s resorted to stealing minutes with Ario, who’s headed off for college in the fall, between deliveries. Even that plan goes kaput when Connor’s remaining client, Ricky Hannigan, dies suddenly of an infected bedsore.

And then Marcia arranges Connor’s kidnapping, and things really go sideways … but not before Ricky leaves Connor an old playbill etched with a cryptic warning in his will. WTF is going on here!?!

First by van, then by plane and boat, Connor is disappeared to small island off the coast of Costa Rica, to a rugged camp operated by Nightlight Ministries – and ruled over by none other than Reverend Packard. He forms a quick bond with his fellow campers Molly, Marcos, Darcy, Lacrishia, Vance, and Jack, one that’s only cemented when it becomes clear that their missions dovetail in some surprising ways. Connor wants – no, needs – to find out what happened to Ricky Hannigan all those years ago, while the long-term residents aim to escape the island – but not before gathering enough evidence to shut it down for good. With the clock ticking and a murderer on the loose, can they emerge from Nightlight unscathed?

From start to finish, SURRENDER YOUR SONS is pretty spectacular: Sass has the creepy, ominous vibe down pat, and the murder mystery part of the story will keep you guessing until the end. The Nighlight captives represent a scrappy, resourceful group of kids from a variety of backgrounds, and you can’t help but root for them – and hard. (I’ll admit, I was hoping for more stabby stabby revenge, but the logic presented against it is – sadly – sound.) I wasn’t totally on board with the Pastor’s motivation – which is why I gave this one five stars, and not five stars plus a “favorite” – but otherwise the story line is as believable as it is compelling.

I think what I love most, though, is the ending: naturally everyone wants a happy ending, but the happiness never sits well when it feels forced or unrealistic. At first, it looks like the characters in SURRENDER YOUR SONS are barrelling towards this fate, but Sass throws us for a loop in the final chapters. This story doesn’t have a happily ever after – but it’s brimming with hope nonetheless. Connor’s victory is bittersweet, but it’s all the more plausible for its ambiguity.

Also worth mentioning is Sass’s wry, audacious sense of humor. Connor’s one-liners, sometimes bandied at the most inappropriate times, are tiny masterpieces of their own.

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While this wasn't a book that filled me with joy, as it shouldn't, Adam Sass' Surrender Your Boys feels necessary and vital to the collection of Queer books that open the conversation of why we need a community. Pain and perseverance are so realted to the LGBTQ+, and this book captures that so clearly and beautifully. This is not going to be a fun summer read kind of book but I do see it striking a nerve with people. This is one of the stronger Debut's that I've read and I can't wait to see what else Mr. Sass has next.

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I should preface this by saying that the author provided a note right at the beginning of the novel that said this was going to be a thriller. So prior to reading, I had been thoroughly warned . . .that said, this did not work as a thriller. I am so disappointed to say that, but I really think this was a missed opportunity to create an important work of contemporary fiction about how conversion therapy is a real thing that continues to exist and just how damaging, dangerous and inhumane it is. Instead, this novel felt like a caricature. The characters, the plotting, the everything was so completely over the top that it took away from the truly important and valuable thematic elements the author was trying to convey. This stings extra hard because there is a lot of potential and I would love to read this story again but without any of the plot points that turned it into an unbelievable "thriller."

At the same time - this could, possibly, still attract the attention of teens and open their eyes and minds to the horrors of conversion therapy, which could, potentially, open up an important conversation and discussion. For that, and that reason alone, it could be a worthwhile purchase for YA collections.

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I got about 15% into another book and could tell it was too slow to break me out of my reading slump. @netgalley had just approved me for SURRENDER YOUR SONS, and the premise was intense: after being kidnapped, gay teenager Connor Major is taken to an isolated conversion therapy camp where he uncovers decades of secrets. ⁣

I kept trying to love this book, but a combination of pacing issues and too many characters made it not a fit for me. It’s likely I might be extra critical since I desperately wanted a slump breaker...I am sure this book will find a ready audience when it comes out this fall. ⁣

Thank you to Flux and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for this review. ⁣


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Surrender Your Sons is a mystery-thriller novel set in a jungle conversion camp. Yes, you read that right. I can't help but think of other conversion therapy books I've read, notably Boy Erased and Miseducation of Cameron Post. But while there are elements of that here, it is neither of those books. While both those take on the realistic horrors of conversion therapy, Sass adds a sense of mystery and the fantastical. Not only is there religious bigotry, but murder, a secluded island, and hints of a shady international organization. A little bit of everything. I enjoyed this novel immensely save for one detail: the pacing. All the major action happens over the course of a day. All the plotting, exposition, murder, mayhem, teen hormones, etc. are cramped very tightly into the plot. And it is hard to remember that because there is so much going on. If I wasn't constantly reminded, I would have thought Connor had been on the island for weeks instead of just one day. I think it having more time to breathe would have been helpful.

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This was AMAZING!

When Connor Major's beautiful out and proud boyfriend convinces him to come out to his mother, all hell breaks loose. But, this hell is a slow leak. After many attempts to make him admit he isn't gay, she turns to the Reverend in town, a man she has been mooning over since she and her son arrived in the Illinois town from Florida years ago. Connor realizes he needs to get out of this house. There is nothing keeping him here. He isn't doing great in school and his favorite meals on wheels client, Ricky has just passed away. He is never going to get his religious zealot mother to accept this part of him. Before he can escape though, he is taken in the night by men who, at his mother's behest, take him to this Costa Rican "resort" run by the Reverend Packard.

Ricky leaves a cryptic message for Connor in his will and Connor doesn't put it together until he realizes that this is no resort but a conversion therapy camp. Ricky had tried to warn him about it but it is too late. Little does Connor know, this camp is not only evil, but shrouded in lies and secrets. As he uncovers more of the truth, he connects the dots between the people who run the camp and the terrible events that they are hiding from the past. Connor swears to his dead friend Ricky, that he will get to the bottom of what really happened to Ricky. He will get the campers out of this awful place and away from these terrifying people holding them there.

Along the way, we meet his fellow campers, most of whom aide Connor in his endeavor to get away from these monsters. This cast of characters were all so wonderful. You feel so strongly for each of them, who have all gone through so much hardship just for being born the way they are. Parts of this book totally broke my heart, but Connor and his perseverance glued it all back together. He was a sassy, adorable character that will stay with me for a long time.

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I came to this book with high expectations and they were MET. A gay thriller about conversion therapy camps? SIGN ME UP.

There are so many great things to say about this book. The subject is great. The pacing is great. The characterization is great. The author does an amazing job of telling all parts of this story. The way he explains the inner turmoil of our main character, Connor Major, is perfect. While it would be so satisfying to read a book where the bad guys are completely ruined, Kill Bill style, real emotions and reactions are so much more complicated than that, and Adam Sass delivers.

This book could be triggering to some readers, especially if you have experienced ostracism because of your identity. The author provides a content warning at the beginning regarding suicide, so be warned if this is something that could harmful to you as a reader. But even though many parts of this are agonizing to read about, it is such a good book. Please read it.

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It's a bitter pill to swallow. The conversion therapy setting and violent homophobia are disturbing, upsetting, and difficult to get through, but the message in itself is priceless. And the promise of karmic retribution is oh so sweet.

On the flipside, some of the dialogue felt unnatural and forced, the romance was instalovey, and the timeframe that this whole book goes through is two-days, which seemed unrealistic.

It was still a powerful, eye-opening reminder that hatred on this absurd, unforgivable level still exists even in an era as progressive as today's.

Overall, a painful but necessary read for 2020.

Thank you to netgalley for providing a digital copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Adam’s exceptional writing showcases a story about what it’s like to be okay with the real you, even if that person is someone the rest of the world sees as flawed. A mystery at its core, this story takes a hard look at what it’s like to exist as a gay person in this judgmental world and leaves the reader with hope for a better future for our kids.

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I was not ready for the reckoning Adam Sass created. Most of this book spans two days and yet every single sentence has perfect pacing. My love for the main protagonist, his poignant wit and frantic grasps for love, his realistic wrestling with internalized homophobia- you can tell a queer author wrote this glorious book and that brings so much more power and reality to it. Every named character is fleshed out and darling in their own ways, they contribute to the solving of the unraveling mystery instead of taking up page space. It opens with a gentle heads up on the heavy themes. Every part of this novel was crafted with reverence and only makes me love the story more. And spoiler alert, we get a happily ever after, but not in an unrealistic way. I am not a re-reader, but I want to lose myself in this book again, soon.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Oh man this book is SO SO SO GOOD. I normally don't read contemporaries, but the title caught my attention and I am so glad I picked this up. This book follows Connor as he tries to navigate the disaster that has been his coming out. His mother is not supportive to say the least, his boyfriend, who has a very supportive family, keeps denying the problems Connor is having. Connor also happens to live in a small, conservative, crazy religious town. The Reverend is very fire and brimstone. In an extreme, last ditch attempt to have a "normal" son, Connor's mom has him taken away to a conversion camp. This is where things start to really pick up and get insane. I can't say much more about it without accidentally spoiling.

The cast of characters we meet there is great however. A disturbing wide variety of ages, some quite young. The campers are split up into boys and girls, and forced to role play traditional gender roles. There is Drew, the famous model, Marcos, a cinnamon roll of anxiety, Owen and Alan, the younger campers. Darcy, who is subtly planning the camps downfall, Molly, who is outright plotting demise, and a couple younger girls. The leaders of the camp are honestly kinda interesting. Some are outright evil, totally believe in what they're doing, but there are others there that are being forced to be there. This book really does an excellent job in detailing the emotional abuse all these people have or are going through. The self-acceptance, and also the self-loathing some have. This is honestly a very intense book. It deals with a whole slew of kinds of abuse, and suicide. The author does have a letter in the beginning about it. The overall message though is one of hope, and found family and love. I couldn't put this book down, it is so good and I highly recommend it!

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This book was a wild ride from beginning to end. I read it in twenty-four hours, unable to put it down, and my heart pounded the whole time. It's not easy to confront a complex and difficult subject in the format of a thriller, while still developing beautiful characters and delivering on-point pacing, but Adam Sass does it skillfully here.

Connor Major, kidnapped and taken to a conversion camp after coming out to his devout mother, is the YA hero we need. There are two journeys going on simultaneously: Connor's emotional journey towards his own self-acceptance and self-love, and his physical and psychological journey battling to get off the island. When he arrives at the camp, Connor bonds with other campers and despite his own fear and struggles, takes the lead on figuring out how to get them all out safely.

Connor's not a perfect character, and that's what makes him so important and lovely to read. His strengths and flaws are so relatable, and watching him come to accept and love his sexual identity throughout the course of the novel was a gift. YA readers - especially LGBTQIA+ teens who are in oppressive or unsafe households - will see themselves in him and be inspired by his growth and bravery. Connor takes the horrible things that have happened to him and becomes a kick-ass hero to be reckoned with.

The story addresses head-on how this type of hate can tear apart families, and should not only be read by a YA audience, but by parents alike. Although I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, I loved this book enough and value its importance that I will be placing a hard copy in my classroom library. It was both voraciously readable and tremendously important, and I'm grateful for the chance to read it.

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ARC provided by the publisher from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

"The fog feels like amnesia, or a dream—a secret I'm trying to tell myself. My brain knows what it is, but it can only tell me in riddles? What is this secret?"

"It's not about about queer pain. It's about what queers do with pain.

5 stars. Y’all, Surrender Your Sons is a masterpiece and I can’t wait for everyone to be able to read it. I just want to reiterate: it is such a privilege that I was able to read this early. This ownvoices, gay thriller about queer people triumphing over hatred and pain being inflicted upon them deserves all the hype it that early reviews have been giving it. It was honestly a very interesting experience for me to read this right after rereading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and seeing the way the two contrast one another. But beyond that, this book itself excels in several areas: prose and characterization are two of the most praise-worthy facets of this novel. However, I think what this novel excels at best is the way it authentically captures what it's like to be a gay teen.

But first let's talk about prose. The fact that Adam Sass is a debut novel astounds me: his prose reads like that of a seasoned author. His writing occupies that sweet spot I absolutely love between stark, sharp writing and it's more flowery, purple counterpart. Sass' writing is razor sharp, unflinching, but is a perfect medium to express Connor's thoughts with a type of poetic clarity that is done in a way that does not bog down the story and instead accentuates it. Whether it'd be expressing the horror clawing up Connor's throat at some of the things he is forced to endure at the conversion camp, expressing his love for certain other characters, or feeling a complicated mix of both, Sass is able to express Connor's thoughts and emotions with remarkable clearness. I can't wait to get a finished copy of this book, reread it, and highlight some of my favorite quotes.

Sass also evidently able to use use his skill as a writer to deftly flesh-out the characters within his novel. Connor's voice reads as both well-fleshed out and realistic. As this novel is written in first person, Connor's voice as a character must be well-drawn enough so the reader can get attached to him even before he must brave the horrors of the conversion camp. Sass succeeds in this well-within the first few pages, showing that he is a queer teen just trying to find his own happiness in awful circumstances: he lives with a religious zealot of a mother, has an absent father, is feeling the brunt of the consequences of coming out, and is living in abject poverty. While Connor arrives to the island in a state of shock and horror, his gradual development into a leader in helping the other queer kids on the island escape is so satisfying to watch.

Sass' success with characterization isn't just limited to his main protagonist. Molly, Marcos, as well as the rest of the supporting cast are all very well drawn-out with their own motivations and plans. The supporting cast, alongside Connor, are also used to show the power of community and found family amongst queer kids. All of the kids that Connor meets at the camp have been rejected and failed by people who were supposed to love them unconditionally; the way queer kids form communities out of necessity is showcased in this book.

Speaking of that, this is one of the most honest and accurate portrayals of a gay Gen Z teen I've seen. This is especially apparent to me post-rereading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda: while the book is a very good depiction of what being a gay teen is like and I will love that book to my dying day, I'd argue that Surrender Your Sons offers a more raw portrayal of that gay teen experience. Everything from Connor's music choices to the vocabulary used by characters in this book to the way his narration shows that yes, Connor is a hormonal teenage boy. For that last one in particular, it's so refreshing: as Sass is an ownvoices author, he is able to accurately depict Connor's sexuality and desire without it coming across as fetishistic or gross. It was so refreshing to see.

Conclusively: please pick this up when it comes out this fall. But also keep in mind that this should only be read when the reader is in the right head-space to read it: big trigger warnings though for suicide, sexual scenes, graphic violence, mention of hate crimes, both physical and mental abuse, homophobia, and transphobia. Regardless, just like Sass says in his author's note, this book is about the light that comes after the dark. Rest assured at the end of the day, this book is about queer triumph and hope!

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This novel gripped me from page one and wouldn't let me go until I'd devoured the entire thing in one sitting.
This thriller follows Connor Major as he is uprooted from his life in the Midwest and sent to a conversion camp on a remote island in Costa Rica. If it was up to him, he wouldn’t have gone at all, but it’s not up to him, is it? Still, he’s determined to work with his new camp-mates to get out.
I finished this fairly long book in a day - it kept surprising me and I loved the path the story took. I empathized with most of the characters, far more than I expected. It investigates queerness and identity in an interesting, nuanced, sometimes painful, always truthful way, and I absolutely adored the twists and turns! Though characters' sexualities were integral to the story (they'd never be in this situation without it), it didn't feel like that was the whole point of reading: it was a story about survival, about free will, about the opportunities afforded to some but not others. I highly highly recommend this book!

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A book that was super interesting and thrilling at times but was lacking some depth and development. It would have been improved if the course of the story spanned more days as it just felt lacking somewhat. There was great representation and a lot of good ideas but execution fell a tiny bit short.

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I have picked up this book and put it down twice now. I don't think I'll be finishing it, which is unfortunate because it seems like such a riveting and heartbreaking story.

What I enjoyed:
1. The writing. The writing is witty and imaginative and I absolutely love the voice of the narrator.
2. The concept. We need more stories like this in the world! Pain is real, and for anyone who doesn't understand the pain because they'll never have to suffer they way the characters in the story do, reading is the best way for them to sympathize and to grow into advocates for justice.

What I didn't enjoy:
1. The exposition is really too slow! The introduction to the characters seemed to drag on forever, and the seemed very unbalanced when compared with the absolutely stunning writing that was being paired with it. I could point to a number of scenes that could have been cut out or condensed in order to make the story a faster read.

Would recommend this book?
YES - if you are a stronger than I am and can trudge through the exposition. I believe that this is an important story with a voice that needs to be heard.
NO - if you are looking for something fast paced and more actionable.

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