“Meche folded the magazine and finally decided to look out the window. The Federal District lay below, a great beast with no beginning and no end, towers and buildings rising and dotting the valley. The roads were twisted snakes criss-crossing its surface, the cars tiny ants racing to their anthill. Twenty million people all gathered together—smashed against each other in the subway, crammed into buses—with the Angel of Independence saluting them from above its pedestal.
“It was eighteen years since she’d seen the city. Twenty since she’d last seen her father.
“Now he was dead.
“He had been pickling his liver for three decades and smoking since he turned twelve, but she’d thought him immortal.
“Meche rubbed the bridge of her nose.
“She didn’t even have a black dress. She knew her dad would have said to wear whatever the hell she wanted: dead is dead. But her mother would expect black. The whole nine days of mourning. The food they’d feed the guests. The nightly prayers.
“If it had been up to Meche she would have cremated him and tossed his ashes in the Gulf of California, like he wanted. But her mother had insisted on the casket, the funeral, the prayers to follow.
“She collected her bags and pulled the luggage, trying to find the familiar face among the sea of strangers.”
–Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Signal to Noise is, as I said in my one-sentence reviews of July reading, an “Americanah storyline meets Mexican mix-tape music magic with a side of slightly too-happy ending that I wouldn’t have wanted any other way.”
The plot: A woman comes home for her father’s funeral after a number years living abroad and is forced to confront her past—a pretty classic storyline, really—except her past includes doing magic via music with her friends. Doing magic can get heavy and some dark shit goes down and…well, finding out the story of Meche’s past and how it intersects and influences the story of Meche’s present is pretty much what this book is all about.
The opener is a good one, particularly as it immediately introduces two of the story’s driving elements: the setting—Mexico City—and the tension between the members of Meche’s family. Moreno-Garcia waits longer than I expected to introduce the magic, which was fun, but not as much fun as listening to Meche talk about the music she loves and what it means to her or reading about the dynamic between three outcast friends dealing with the usual bullshit involved in going to school, navigating relationships, and growing up. The magic helps to add drama and heighten the importance of music in teens’ lives, but the meat of the story lies in the relationships and the music.
Though I do not believe Signal to Noise was marketed to the YA crowd, it would make a really good birthday present for any late-ish teens you know. There is realistic (though not excessive) talk of sex (ie sex happens, use condoms if you would like to avoid pregnancy) and realistic (and realistically excessive) talk of the seriously fucked up problems that teens often have to deal with and that some adults don’t seem to remember can actually happen to people under 18.
Recommended? Yes. For reader’s of all ages, but particularly to music lovers. Full review coming next Tuesday. (Link won’t work until then, fyi.)
Would you read Signal to Noise based on that opener?