Signal to Noise

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Reviewed by SA

Magic. Sometimes you pick up a book, and you just feel the magic flowing through it. Signal to Noise was a novel that surprised me in the way it caught me so early on; there was an instant connection between reader and characters, and the magic in the music just compelled me to read more.

Summary – Curtesy of Goodreads

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?

I can’t think of any teenager that didn’t dream of magic when they were young. Who dreamed of being able to influence events, to make the world go their way, especially in that awkward period of your life where everything is zits and school and crushes. Meche is no different: she is a smart young woman who struggles with boys she likes and teachers that cause her trouble. Her friends are as awkward as her, each trying to navigate high school and adolescence. So of course when Meche realizes she can use her record collection to influence the future, the three of them take matters into their own hands.

What’s fantastic is that the Magic comes from the music Meche loves, from classic rock to jazz, fantastic songs that don’t make you doubt for a second that magic really does exist. Someone even made a playlist from the songs mentioned int he novel – check it out here!

The one thing that annoyed me slightly when reading this novel was the lack of information on the rules of their magic. What are its limits? What can they do with records, and why is it that sometimes, music is not needed? However, I like to think that ads to the charm: the teens are inexperienced with Magic, they are not instantly experts. They go with what works, play and expand on stories and gut feelings. The magic is more, well, magical in that way.

The novel bounces from 1988 to 2009, between Meche the teen and Meche the woman. It is strange to see Meche in the present. She’s followed the career she always wanted to, lives in Europe, can be considered quite successful, and very accomplished. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any magic left in this present: it reads colder, maybe because of the death that hangs in the air. Sometimes it was hard to relate present Meche with the girl she used to be, but even so, the author still manages to make us care for the young woman.

Signal to Noise is a fun, peculiar novel. It’s magical in and of itself, enjoyable, and you can’t help but feel captivated by the plight of the awkward trio; while at the same time, I felt odd while reading it, a slight worry in the pit of my stomach that I knew what was coming. Fueled by hints dropped by the author, some ominous foreboding hung over me. This did not make the read any less enjoyable, it only made it more unique.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia comes out February 10th.

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