Cover Image: The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

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Member Reviews

you guys, think i found my new favourite book of 2023. this was so good, definitely right up my alley. the world building was exceptional and i was so invested in the lore, mechanics of how this world operated. i really enjoyed how beautiful the writing was, including how visceral the imagery could get. the body horror was utter perfection. the characters were the type you found yourself rooting for especially when shit hit the fan towards the end. i just love this so much and can not wait till it comes out so i can own a physical copy.

many thanks to netgalley and the publishers for allowing me an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Trigger/content warnings: graphic violence, body horror, medical gore, C-section, vivisections of humans, child abuse, transphobia, misgendering, deadnaming, internalized transphobia, misogyny, child pregnancy, child marriage, attempted sexual assault, abuse of power, ableism, descriptions of dissecting animals

Representation: autistic trans boy main lead, trans girl love interest, sapphic side character

If you’re looking for an unapologetically dark story unlike any other, look no further than The Spirit Bares Its Teeth, Andrew Joseph White’s haunting and raw sophomore novel set in an alternate 1883 London. With a blend of ghosts, missing girls, body horror, and discussions of trans rage, this novel will surely appeal to horror fans.

In an effort to escape his family and their arranged marriage for him, sixteen-year-old trans boy Silas Bell takes the spot of another man at a convention. Nothing goes as planned, however, and Silas is sent to Braxton’s Finishing School and Sanitorium, an all-girls boarding school that treats “hysterical” violet-eyed students who can communicate with the dead. Silas is exposed to the brutal, oppressive environment at Braxton’s, where students are disappearing without a trace.

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This book cut my heart apart and then stitched it back together again. I'd follow Silas and Daphne to the ends of the earth.

It's Victorian England, and the veil between the ominously cold and dark spirit world and our own world is thinning. Inexplicably and in response, violet eyed girls and boys begin to pop up, able to break down the veil between realms and talk with spirits. But in patriarchal Victorian England, females are not allowed to commune with the spirits in any capacity. Doing so means death...or being sent away to an asylum and "rehabilitated" to serve the one purpose violet-eyed girls & women are allowed to serve: as breeding stock.

Autistic MC/hero Silas was born female, but knows it's not who he truly is. His brother George seems to understand him, going so far as to giving Silas discarded clothing to wear and calling him by the correct name. However, one reckless decision after another leaves Silas being whisked away to Braxton's, a sanatorium and "finishing school" for violet-eyed girls to be turned into lovely, abiding wives.

But girls are disappearing, and Silas realizes it's up to him to find out why. With the help of his betrothed, a trans girl named Daphne, the pair are up against insurmountable odds. The horrors lurking beneath the fine exterior of Braxton's are innumerable, and the HEA at the end of this book was the most hard-earned HEA I believe I've ever read.

AJW has written a masterpiece of body horror intermingled with a poignant exploration of the historical trans experience and the autistic experience. I walked away from this book completely altered in the best possible way. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth ravaged me from page one, dragging me along through horror after horror and yet it also lifted me up in all the right places. The love between Silas and Daphne will live in my heart forever. The understanding and devotion between the two of them nestled deep in my marrow, and there it will stay.

The voice, pacing, and plot twists were fantastic. I felt the danger skittering along my skin from beginning to end... never assured of the MC's safety. Always feeling like something horrible was one page away. I stayed up until an ungodly hour reading this one until my husband made me go to sleep (by way of reason lol), and woke up the next morning and immediately binged the rest of it until I was done.

One thing I will say is to please abide by any content warnings for this book. There are very graphic descriptions of surgery, smells, the insides of bodies, pregnancy loss, c-section, etc. There are also implied and mentioned sexual assault of minors, and on page non-consensual kissing (not between hero/heroine). I apparently have a very sturdy stomach, but if you are squeamish at all, I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend this book.

All in all, this is the best book I've read so far in 2023 and if you can stomach the body horror and SA, I'm begging you to read it.

Thank you to NetGalley, PeachTree Teen and Andrew Joseph White for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

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The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White (@ajwhiteauthor)

👁️💜🪡🩸👻

“I wanted nothing to do with spirits. I wanted the soil while it was still attached to the body, when it still thrummed with life. I wanted to feel the body move, burning hot under my fingers. I wanted to dedicate my life to the only thing that has ever made sense.”

⚠️TW: body horror, medical trauma, physical abuse, transphobia, ableism, off-page SA

(swipe for synopsis)

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is an absolutely phenomenal read. I applied for the ARC as soon as it became available, as I had just read the author’s previous book, Hell Followed With Us, which will mostly likely be my favorite book of the year, with TSBIT being a close second. 💜

Silas is queer, autistic, and he is a hero. He is smart and determined, and loves the things that make him who he is, no matter how much the world tries to wrench that away from him and tells him he’s broken. He has no desire to use his ability to commune with the spirit world, but he does so for the greater good, and he wants desperately to be free to be himself, a reality that many queer and autistic folks can relate to. The girls Silas meets in the sanitorium are so well written and my heart ached for all of them. The prose was beautifully written, and very haunting (pun intended). ✨

This story is INTENSE, and you absolutely need to read the TWs before diving in. The historical abuse of mentally ill & queer people is a recurring theme. But it is also extremely powerful. It is a beautiful representation of an Autistic protag, and despite it’s dark tone and a plethora of gory scenes, there manages to be a fair amount of queer joy packed into the story as well. I was riveted the entire time, and there were twists that absolutely punched me in the gut. I cannot recommend it enough. Seriously. 🙏🏻

TSBIT comes out September 5. Huge thank you to @ajwhiteauthor, @peachtreepublishing, & @netgalley for allowing me to read this masterpiece early! 📖

STARS:
📝strong story? ⭐️
🤷🏻compelling characters? ⭐️
✍🏻enjoyable writing style? ⭐️
❤️‍🔥did it give me ✨the feels✨? ⭐️
👍🏻recommend? ⭐️

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5 stars)

cover art by Melia Parsloe

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never have i read something that had me stopping so much to think about how similar i was to the mc. silas made me feel so visible, the way he talks about his autism and transness (not entirely relating to eachother) is so resonating. silas and daphne are maybe one of the best portrayals of trans love i’ve seen written and i am obsessed with them. this book was disgusting, tense, full of queer rage, beautiful, dark, gross, and gory and also perhaps the one of the best books i’ve ever read.

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Before I get into the review, let me just say that this cover? Stunning. Perfectly encapsulates the vibe of the book.

Now, this took me a day or two to write, mostly because my brain just would not form a coherent sentence to save my life. But also because I wanted to do this book justice. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is raw, intense, horrifying, and infuriating. This is a world that has far too many parallels to today's; trans folk aren't allowed to express their identities and are viewed as "sick" when they try, autistic folk are viewed as off-putting and "wrong", women are defined by what they can offer men, and anyone not white is invisible until they aren't. It's honestly the conservative viewpoints in a nutshell. Andrew Joseph White very kindly offers a page of content warnings before the start of the book and that isn't just lip service. There are a lot of things going on that are very, very difficult to read about, even if they aren't your specific triggers. If you aren't in a position where you can handle reading about any of those things, it'd be best to skip this book and possibly come back to it if you can.

The thing that makes this more than just a fictional look at a very real, intense time period is that ghosts are hidden behind a Veil and there are violet-eyed people who have the power to manipulate it. As with any power (especially one that seems to come out of nowhere, seemingly divine), there are people who seek to use and abuse it for their own gain. These come in the form of Speakers and they are all cis men. Why? Because, obviously, women are far, far too fragile to handle the powers of a speaker and manipulate the Veil. /sarcasm Instead, violet-eyed women are, from a very young age, groomed to be the wives of these Speakers or any other powerful man who simply wants the prestige of a violet-eyed child of his own. That brings us to Silas. Silas is a trans, autistic boy who wants to be a surgeon. He also desperately does not want to get married, but his parents have other ideas. A voice in his head (in the guise of a rabbit) tells him to just suck it up and do what they want; it's better than getting hurt in the end. But filling the role everyone tells him he was born to play (even though they're so very wrong) is more terrifying than being sentenced to death, so he attempts to infiltrate the welcoming of a new Speaker into the fold by posing as the boy in line to get his Speaker's brand. Unfortunately, he fails, outs himself in the process, and is very nearly taken into custody when one of the Speakers intervenes and offers to arrange a marriage between Silas and his son. This comes with a catch, though, as Silas must be brought to a special sanitorium/reformatory for violet-eyed girls who have "Veil sickness".

And that's where the story begins. Silas and the girls at the reformatory go through so, so much. It's equal parts sickening, saddening, and rage-inducing. Silas, despite all he goes through, is a wonderful protagonist. His narrative voice is very evocative and pretty gory (if I had the skills to rip out my own uterus, I'd do it, too, ngl), but that's just how Silas sees the world--through the eyes of a surgeon.

The concept of the Veil is really cool, but I do wish it were utilized a bit more. Although Silas is able to manipulate it, he doesn't like doing it. He prefers working with the living rather than the dead. Which, honestly, is completely fair. I still wish there was a bit more explanation behind it, even though I can see how, narratively, it may not fit.

I do also wish we got a bit more time with Silas and Daphne. Because Silas is basically immediately shipped off to the reformatory, he and Daphne only get so much time together. Their relationship was really sweet; I just wish that the story fleshed out Daphne's character a tiny bit more. Not to say that she isn't fleshed out; I just wanted the tiniest bit more.

Overall, though, I really loved this and sped through it. I probably could've finished it the day I started it, but I started it too late in the day and ended up needing sleep. I'll definitely have to go pick up Andrew Joseph White's debut because the writing here was immaculate. And if you can stomach it, I'd highly recommend picking up The Spirit Bares Its Teeth. It'll make you sad and angry and disgusted, but not hopeless. Never hopeless.

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I received an ARC in exchange of a review! Let me tell you, this is genuinely one of the best books I’ve ever read. I fell in love with Andrew’s writing after Hell Followed With Us, and I didn’t think I would ever love a book as much as I did that one, but here we are. I’m a huge fan of horror and this book still managed to paint a descriptive picture of disturbing and tragic events. The main characters are so lovable and flawed, and the trans experience is so beautifully represented. The autism representation was so relatable and made me fall in love with Silas as a character even more considering the amount of times I could relate to him and his experiences through the book. I read it all in one sitting and I want nothing more then to experience it for the first time again. The twists and intricate turns were amazing to watch tie together, and I’m definitely purchasing this book the moment it comes out to reread all over again.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review!

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is a young adult horror novel about a young autistic trans boy trying to figure out what's happening to the other girls at the sanatorium he's been forcibly placed at. I have never seen this combination of characters in a historical novel, nor have I seen such incredible depictions of autism, outside of AJW's debut Hell Followed With Us. I'm currently sitting here just at a loss for words. I'd be reading the more mundane scenes and Silas would start stimming in a way that I myself do and I'd just go"!!!!!! I DO THAT :D!!!" Aside from the depictions of autism and transness, the plot itself was just. Ough. Oh man. AJW was not lying when he said this book was heavy. Just imagining some of the scenes were absolutely horrific and so sad, I think the author has done an incredible job of writing everything so viscerally. Every aspect endears you to the book in some way, there's at least one side character for everyone to latch onto. The reveals near the end did so well in portraying that moment of realization that everyone around you is complicit and the absolute sickening feeling it is. I was very excited to get my hands on this title from the moment it was announced and it was as incredible as I thought it was. Genuinely don't have any criticisms here, and I'm excited to see what Andrew puts out next.

heavy content warnings for: blood/gore/descriptions of injuries, ableism, sexual assault, discussions of eye mutilation, miscarriage, heavy bodily injury, transphobia, medical procedures depicted and dicussed, torture.

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What i love the most about Andrew Joseph White’s writing is the way it hooks you from the first page and keeps your attention all the way through. I felt so many emotions while reading this book. Disgust was a big one and I mean that as a compliment. A lot of people have said this one isn’t as bad as HFWU but in my opinion it’s way worse. I love that, that words on my phone can invoke so many emotion.

The pacing is great. It builds a sense of dread but can also very adeptly lull you into a false sense of security. Nothing is sacred. It lends to the general sense of just pure horror coating everything and every interaction.

This is a book very heavily inspired by history. The oppression of specifically women and the mentally ill and horrific conditions and experiments that would take places in places like mental asylums in the name of cures. The female hysteria. This is a book purely focused on the white perspective. This is acknowledged by the author. I don’t feel educated enough to say anything further on that topic.

My biggest gripe lies in the romance. It’s very insta lovey. I’ve thought about it more and it makes at lot of sense actually they’re teenagers and suddenly theres someone completely safe and you’re already engaged I wouldn’t let go of that.

I could not put this book down and I loved every second even when I was uncomfortable. Andrew Jospeh White has quickly become a favorite author and I will be eagerly awaiting any releases in the future.

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I enjoyed this book. The characters were well thought out and the plot was paced in a way that made sense. I would recommend this book to others and would enjoy reading other novels by this author.

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"Everyone is made up of stories, when you think about it. You only really come to understand yourself by comparing other people's stories to yours; you find where things are the same, and where they're not."

I have no words to describe how absolutely incredible this book was. What a hell of an adventure.

"The Spirit Bares Its Teeth" is a rollercoaster of emotions set in an alternative Victorian Era London, where some people are born with violet eyes and can open "the veil", allowing the dead to step back in the world of the living. The Speakers control and dictate who can interact with said veil and destroy anyone else they deem not worthy - which is to say anyone who was not born a man. The women born with violet eyes are to be engaged with whichever man bids the highest. This is to be the fate of our main character, Silas, who is very much against it. So, he takes a shot at his one chance to be free and leave London behind... which fails, and now he's a in school for those with "veil-sickness".

First, I have to admit I'm not particularly fond of first-person narration but, somehow, the author made it work! I didn't have a hard time reading or was bored for any second of the book. The writing flows nicely and really captures the reader, it made me feel like I was inside the book.

The concept of the book itself was very interesting and it was everything I expected it to be but, at the same time, so much more. There are definitely some scenes that are not for the faint of heart, and some of them left me truly shocked (and I had to close the app and lay down to reflect on my life), but it really conveys everything the book is supposed to be about and adds so many layers to the plot and characters.

As for the characters, the author did an incredible job - he crafted them perfectly, in my opinion. I love how we are introduced to Silas, how afraid he is but he doesn't put his foot down either. He's been brave since the very first page of the book, but it's not until the very end that he sees and embraces it. I loved getting to know Silas and seeing his journey - I loved how we're shown his struggles and wishes and how we're there to see every single one of them fulfilled. Personally, I loved the journey of Silas figuring out that his transness and austim are separated, how one doesn't necessarily lead to another and how this disproves everything he's been taught. I can't express how much I cried when he first met Daphne. The book is set in such a dark world but that was such a bright and joyful moment. I could reread it a hundred times more. And the three little moments with the groundskeeper? It just made me wish there was more time for them to interact.

Daphne was also very interesting to get to know. She's not really a main character but every page she's in she shines. Every time she visits she shows a new side to herself and turns the story a little brighter. Her story culminates at the end of the book in a way that I loved (and hoped for). There is one thing I would have liked to see her do (which is stand up to her father in some way, even though I'm sure that's got to have happened at least once in the past. I would have liked to see it), but overall I liked how she was introduced, and how she played her part in the middle and am incredibly happy with her ending. Also, she saved me from one very stressful moment in this book and I will never be more grateful for that.

There are other characters in the book that I loved - the girls Silas spent time with in the school: Isabella, Mary, Louise and Charlotte. Ellen and Frances didn't show up much but I did enjoy the few little moments they had. I liked the bonds between the girls and how they stuck with each other, most of all how they stuck with Silas too (mostly towards the end of the book). I loved how involved Mary got and how much of her character we got to see towards the end.

There's also one character I have to mention. I will not say the name because of spoilers but I would like to point out that I did not trust this person one single second and I was so correct and I hate being correct about this. Given that last line of the book, I hope this person gets what they deserve (and if they do, I will be the first in line to a get a copy of whatever it comes written on, it can be a book or an article or even a pamphlet).

Overall, this story is filled with adventure and ghosts and revenge. More importantly, it's about accepting and fighting for yourself. It's about society pressuring you to be one way, telling you to do certain things, when none of the ways you were ever presented a problem. The others were the problem all along, their lack of understanding and zero effort are to blame. It's a story about a boy who simply wants to live free and be happy - oh and be a surgeon. That part is important.

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Oh my god!

It's a difficult book. It's sad, anger-inducing, and uncomfortable in many parts. But it is filled with so much love and care. White covers a horrific part of history, the dangerous treatment towards neurodivergent people, women, and queer people, combining historical fiction and horror to create this wonderful book.

Silas is one of my favorite protagonists I've ever read. There were moments I wanted to hug him. There are elements of him that I see in myself, the over apologizing, the way he understands the world (although, like Daphne, literature is my method:) ) Watching him grow as a character throughout the novel, and seeing where he ended up at the end of the story was a wonderful experience.

Daphne and Silas are the most tender couple I have read in a long time. I love their scenes together, insta-love and all. But this is insta-love done perfectly. The moment Daphne reveals herself to Silas and the latter's response made me cry. It's such a beautiful section:

"For the first time in my life, there is someone like me. Who is real, who is alive, who is so close I could touch them. In the span of seconds, standing there in a suit with her cheeks flushing the color of roses and her eyes brimming with tears, the Honorable Daphne Luckenbill becomes the most wonderful girl I have ever seen."

Outside of the romance, the plot gripped me so tight, I could only put the book down twice. I read this within the span of a few hours.

This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. Definitely getting a physical when I can!

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This was fucking brutal, nauseating and wonderful. My nerves are shot through the roof (and so are my cat’s due to my panicked expletives). Plus, the soft t4t? I was not expecting such sweetness amongst this gut churning read? Absolutely loved.

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The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is everything you want and expect in a horror, but definitely take the authors warnings before reading because this is very dark, gruesome and explicit and some people may not be able to read this. However if this is the book for you horror fans will love this, The representation in this book is amazing and I loved seeing all the different identities that are represented in these great characters.

Overall this is an amazing horror and although it won't be for everyone I think it will be a big hit.

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Vicious, visceral, rapid, fiery, and seeped with dread - absolutely incredible. I couldn't put this down, even when I was flinching, and everything comes together with intense, gory, cathartic perfection. Feral femininity, fierce trans lovers, and a much appreciated side commentary on empire.

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This book was fantastically brutal, visceral, and gross, all in a good way. Could not put it down from page one.

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I received a free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much!

Oh my god.

I am not a horror fan by any means. But this book was incredible.

It's a difficult book. It's sad, anger-inducing, and uncomfortable in many parts. But it is filled with so much love and care. White covers a horrific part of history, the dangerous treatment towards neurodivergent people, women, and queer people, combining historical fiction and horror to create this wonderful book.

Silas is one of my favorite protagonists I've ever read. There were moments I wanted to hug him. There are elements of him that I see in myself, the over apologizing, the way he understands the world (although, like Daphne, literature is my method:) ) Watching him grow as a character throughout the novel, and seeing where he ended up at the end of the story was a wonderful experience.

Daphne and Silas are the most tender couple I have read in a long time. I love their scenes together, insta-love and all. But this is insta-love done perfectly. The moment Daphne reveals herself to Silas and the latter's response made me cry. It's such a beautiful section:

"For the first time in my life, there is someone like me. Who is real, who is alive, who is so close I could touch them. In the span of seconds, standing there in a suit with her cheeks flushing the color of roses and her eyes brimming with tears, the Honorable Daphne Luckenbill becomes the most wonderful girl I have ever seen."

Outside of the romance, the plot gripped me so tight, I could only put the book down twice. I read this within the span of a few hours.

This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. Definitely getting a physical when I can!

Read the content warnings on the author's website before reading as always!

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I'd like to thank NetGalley and publisher for providing me with an ARC of The Spirit Bares Its Teeth in exchange for an honest review!
This book was definitely riveting, but I especially loved the world building. Set in the later 1880's, this book follows Silas, a transgender boy who is born with violet eyes which allow him to see the dead. The story is set in London, with the cruel and misogynistic Speaker Society ruling over all. After attempting to escape the role defined by his assigned sex at birth, Silas is sent to a boarding school for mischievous violet eyed women, where he discovers a terrible secret. I definitely loved Silas as a protagonist. I emphasized with him, and hoped for him to get out of his predicament. Indeed, I feel like the strongest aspect of this novel concerned the relationships. Silas and his brother, George, were a highlight of the novel to me. It sucks to love someone who ends up not being who you thought they were. Also, It's always nice to find a great T4T novel, as we see with Daphne and Silas. I felt like the plot flowed very well for a novel of this size, and each character was unique in their own way. I didn't feel bogged down, as every character seemed to have a solid place in the story. Through it all, I felt as through the concept and story were unique, especially with the violet eyes concept. This is definitely a novel I will purchase when it comes out. I very much enjoyed it!

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"If a dead girl prays to God can he hear her?"

tw // transphobia, ableism, graphic violence, sexual assault, discussions of forced
pregnancy and miscarriage, mentions of suicidal ideation, extensive medical gore

"The Spirit Bares Its Teeth" picked up a pair of silver scissor and thrusted them into my body, leaving a mush of muscles and bones behind barely recognizable as me.

There are no longer words. I surely don't have them. I cannot even begin to describe what I felt while reading, how Silas's story grabbed me by a hand since the page one, and how his hand was moving deeper and deeper into my flesh and ribs until it found it and mercilessly grabbed this beating heart. It. Is. Marvelous.

The horror? Indescribable. The tension? Unbreakable. The story? Fucking wild. Good isn't the word, bad is. How wrong it is, how uncomfortable with this evil waiting under its surface. AJW is a genius when it comes to sending reader way down into darkness of a world deprived of light, just to shine a dim of hope upon them. It breaks you. And yet you cannot leave. You -don't- want to leave.

I am well aware it is unhinged, feral and untamed book that is not for anyone. It never was meant to be. It won't be praised by most, but that's what makes the very core of it. TSBIT does not choose simplifications. It does not agree to exist as anything but this.

And I fucking loved every shard of glass it thrusted into me.

If this is AJW's young adult version of horror, I am terrified of the twisted adult tale he's preparing. Cannot wait for it.

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All my issues with this are 10000% me and not the book so I don't want to let that impact my rating. AJW's first book really pushed the limits of my ability to read gore and body horror and this one was simply too much for me. So, like I said, a me issue and not the book.

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