Mexico City, 1988. Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mix tape. 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. 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 alone for her estranged father’s funeral.
It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, reviving memories from a childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? Is there any magic left?
I picked up Signal to Noise in my local bookstore simply because I was drawn to the funky, retro-looking cover. They say don’t judge a book by its cover and while that’s true, covers can definitely kickstart that initial curiosity.
I really, really enjoyed Signal to Noise, which was Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel. As you’ve probably noticed by now, I adore books centered around paranormal themes and Signal to Noise just completely and utterly reinvents this genre. It’s fresh and it’s innovative.
The magic that the three main characters – Meche, Sebastian and Daniela – discover, arises from music and the sheer power encased within it. The idea of magic and music being intrinsically linked reminds me of the band, Two Steps From Hell, who say “Music makes you braver.” It’s an undeniable truth. Is the idea of sitting on the couch and watching Netflix sounding more appealing than going for a jog? No problem, pop in those headphones and get some classic rock blasting. That’ll get you lacing up those sneakers soon enough. Nervous about an upcoming job interview? Crank up the volume and sing along to Journey’s Don’t stop believing. Those nerves will be calmed in no time at all. Music does make us braver. Music is powerful. Music is…magic. The fact that Silvia has identified this and written an entire novel about delighted me to no end. Plus there were a ton of music references and I had a lot of fun YouTubing (is that a real verb?) new songs.
Signal to Noise is a compelling read. To use the ol’ cliche, it’s a real page turner. Literally. The narrative is split between two years, 1988/9 and 2009. When reading a 2009 chapter, Meche would think about something – for example, “that night” which, let’s be honest , is pretty vague as an explanation – and suddenly I’d be compelled to stay up just “five minutes longer” so I could get whisked back to the 80s and witness what happened on “that night”.
Furthermore, Signal to Noise encourages us to ask important questions about ourselves as individuals. If bestowed with such power, how would we wield it? Would we be responsible? Would we recognize the dangers of it and exercise caution? Or would we, like Meche, give in to our darker side and punish people as we saw fit?
Signal to Noise is a very human novel. If that makes sense. Most of the characters get an opportunity to drive the narrative, even the supposedly not-so-nice characters. Initially, I despised Meche’s dad, Vicente, branding him irresponsible. However, the more I saw from his perspective, the more I understood his actions. Even his worst decisions are born from a desire to succeed and craft a better future for him and Meche. Signal to Noise shows us that we’re all human and we make mistakes and nothing – not even magic – can change that.
A powerful read. I’ve been quite generous with my 5s lately, but Silvia deserves nothing less. Super excited to read her other books!
Oh and one more thing. Can someone magic up a portal that allows us to dip in and out of fictional worlds? I need to try some of Meche’s grandma’s cooking.
Song: Queen’s Kind of magic
This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.