Title: Signal to Noise
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Release Date: February 10th 2015
“A literary fantasy about love, music and sorcery, set against the background of Mexico City.
Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?“
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Signal to Noise combines music, nostalgia, and magic in a novel that takes readers on a decades long journey of heartbreak and healing. Signal to Noise alternates between the late 1980s and 2009 Mexico City. In 1988 Meche and her friends Sebastian and Daniela are outcasts. Too weird to be accepted into the popular crowd, the three friends find solace in one another. When Meche discovers her records are able to weave magic, she enlists the help of her friends to change their luck. Fast forward to 2009 and Meche is returning home for her father’s funeral. She hasn’t seen Sebastian and Daniela for decades, but the sting of their betrayal still bites. As Meche deals with her father’s passing and the resentment she still carries, she unexpectedly runs into Sebastian. Meche has spent the last two decades trying to forget what happened the year she and her friends discovered magic, but realizes no matter how far you run from home or for how long, your personal ghosts will always find you.
Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel is at its core an ode to music. If you are any kind of music lover, there is plenty to enjoy in this one. Meche is a bit of a music snob, but her love for music is contagious. Music brought her closer to her father and is what led her to Sebastian. Even when these relationships imploded, music was always there to soothe her. I love that Moreno-Garcia chooses music as the mode for magic. Music can instantly transport you to another time and Moreno-Garcia shifts between two different timelines with such ease using music as a constant in both timelines.
This isn’t a novel where characters make the best decisions, but their choices feel human. As teens, Meche and her friends are bewitched by the idea of magic. Not-so-secret crushes and far-off dreams no longer seem impossible. But as Meche, Sebastian, and Daniela begin to discover just how much power they have, it becomes difficult to draw a line between righting wrongs and exacting revenge because you like the power. Their friendship, once the strongest relationship in each of their lives, begins to crack. As readers slowly learn what caused Meche to leave Mexico City and what ultimately broke apart this friend group, she returns as an adult who hasn’t much changed. She’s still moody and abrasive, unable to let go of all the hurt in her past. As she sorts through her father’s belongings, she is forced to confront her feelings about him, the kind of father he was versus the kind of father she needed him to be.
I really enjoyed Meche and Sebastian’s scenes together, as kids and adults. They never quite understood their feelings for one another, but the tension Moreno-Garcia incorporates in their interactions as adults makes for some compelling interactions. As a reader you could feel the weight of the past pushing down on both of them. Sebastian is waiting for Meche to remember what they used to have while Meche is fighting to regain her equilibrium. She’s survived all these years without him by forgetting. There’s something to be said about how Meche views the past as it feels very much like she’s seeing things from a convoluted viewpoint. She doesn’t want to remember, but still hangs on, tooth and nail, to all the resentment.
Signal to Noise‘s timelines build upon each other, creating a story of love and loss and second chances. With engaging characters and a moving storyline, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut is as enchanting as the magic found within its pages.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★