I am so excited to introduce this small press title today. Signal to Noise is a perfect young adult crossover novel, full of appeal, diverse characters & setting, wonderful writing–and magic.
What I love about this book is that even in the 2009 sections, when its characters are adults, Meche still has that sulky teen voice. And it makes sense because she’s still carrying around the weight of her past. She ran away from it, never resolved any of her issues, so she’s sort of trapped there. Now that she’s back in her hometown, Mexico City, her friends and family are nudging her to grow up already! At the same time, it’s impossible not to feel for Meche, to understand why she made the mistakes she made.
The author does a wonderful job of pacing the revelations through the narrative. She creates suspense around the fates of her character’s relationships, which propels readers through the book. Because this is an adult novel, things don’t wrap up as smoothly as the reader might expect.
As for teen appeal, Moreno-Garcia fills her book with music and a longing to travel the world and impossible high school crushes. And then there’s the magic. This would be a good book without it. With it, the book takes on a kind of mystery and depth, even moments of dread. The power becomes life-threatening, and causes rifts in deep friendships. As Meche’s grandmother says, “Magic will break your heart.”
Signal to Noise is not exactly magical realism, and it’s hard for me to call this novel a fantasy–although it seems that’s the designation assigned by popular SF/Fantasy sources like Locus, Tor, and SF Signal. If you’re interested in hearing more from the author herself, Tor featured Moreno-Garcia in its Coode Street Podcast on Tuesday.
Fans of Eleanor and Park, meet Meche and Sebastian. Their story takes place in Mexico City and alternates between 1989 and 2009, when adult Meche returns home for her father’s funeral. It’s been 20 years since she’s seen her father, and 18 since she left the city. Mostly, she dreads running into Sebastian. At the beginning of the 1988–89 school year Meche, Sebastian, and Daniela were best friends. Meche loved music, Sebastian books, and Daniela her easy bake oven. What went wrong? Something happened that year, too, to ruin Meche’s relationship with her father, because in 1988 he worked as a radio station DJ, and she wanted to be just like him. This is largely a realistic friendship and family story, but there is another element. Meche persuades Sebastian and Daniela to change their loser status at school by harnessing magical power. They wish for money, for attention from their crushes, and Meche wishes for her parents to stay together. They take an old portable turntable to a nearby abandoned factory and, with practice, tap into the power of certain music. Disastrously, they take it too far. The author digs deep into Meche’s motivations and actions, showing her immaturity and insecurity as well as her passion and intelligence. The unexpected happens when Meche stops focusing on what she doesn’t have, and sees the boy right in front of her. Recommended as a good next read for teens who enjoyed Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (Cinco Punto, 2014)—they will recognize a similar mother/daughter relationship in particular. VERDICT: Meche returns home for her father’s funeral and remembers one extraordinary year of her youth marked by music, magic, and falling in love.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City