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Signal to Noise

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  2,602 ratings  ·  574 reviews
Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here

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 compa
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 10th 2015 by Solaris
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willaful There is one section in which a boy makes a very ugly, graphic threat. That would make me hesitate to give it to a younger teen.

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  2,602 ratings  ·  574 reviews

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Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, owned
At its core, this is a story about a teenage girl and her two friends who are all outcasts in 1980's Mexico City. They don't fit in at school or at home, and one day, when Meche (a.k.a. Mercedes, our protagonist) discovers she can perform magical spells with the help of vinyl records, they plan to make things right for themselves.

Unfortunately, many aspects of this novel felt underdeveloped. All of the elements were there to make an amazing book, but they didn't go far enough to pull me in.

Larry H
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I just love it when I find a book I've never heard of and know nothing about and it just totally takes me by surprise and wows me. Such is the case with Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Signal to Noise , a heartfelt, nostalgic look at music, love, family, a little magic, and the friendships of our youth which never quite leave us.

Mercedes ("Meche") is growing up in Mexico City in 1988. She's a smart girl and obsessed with music—her father is a DJ, so she thinks of everything in terms of different songs
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
See my full review (if you can even call it a review cause I basically just gush for five minutes) ...more
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
Signal to Noise is flatter than a pancake, and not nearly as tasty even if you drizzle the book in maple syrup. WHICH I DEFINITELY DIDN'T TRY, OKAY? I mean where would I even GET maple syrup? The grocery store? Uh yeah you realize I live on a tropical island don't you? Haha just kidding. I don't live on a tropical island. The tropical island lives in me.

But where was I?

Ah yes. Tropical islands. They say, "No man is an Island." I say, "He is also not a volcano, an isthmus, or a hedge maze." No wa
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
In talking about it you realize that Moreno-Garcia takes common themes and makes them better.
To say Meche is stubborn is just another throw-away adjective used describe a pantheon of YA protagonists but is so much of what makes up Meche. She is unlikeable in the way so many teenagers are - filled with contradictions and big emotions. The duo of Meche and Sebastian, two friends so comfortable in their own skins with each other yet attracted to absolutely the wrong people, all but telegraphs the s
Althea Ann
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because I'd read one of Moreno-Garcia's short stories in the 'Dangerous Games' anthology, and really enjoyed it.

From that one previous experience of her writing (a modern Lovecraft tribute), this book wasn't quite what I expected - however, it won me over.

Alternating between scenes set in 1988 and twenty years later, the novel introduces us to Meche.

In 1988, she's a teen in Mexico City. Her family doesn't have much money, and she's an unpopular, nerdy girl. However, she's g
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read an advance copy of Mexican Gothic earlier this year and immediately had to grab every book written by Moreno-Garcia. I chose to begin with Signal to Noise and I’m so glad that I did!

It’s the end of the 80s in Mexico City and fifteen-year-old Meche is an awkward kid who is rough around the edges. Lucky for her she has two best friends, Sebastian and Daniela, and crates of vinyl records to keep her from becoming completely jaded. Her parents’ marriage has been falling apart for ages and she
K.J. Charles
This was very good. The story is a pretty well told one--three misfit teenagers form a witches' circle and start doing magic, but power goes to their heads. What makes it stand out is partly the clear-sighted view the story takes of the teens--they're selfish and horrible and idiotic in their inability to understand their own or anyone else's feelings, but that isn't anything to do with magic, it's just the nature of the beast. The magic warps Meche but not in a way her own personality didn't le ...more
Book Riot Community
One part High Fidelity. One part The Magicians. Add in lots of originality and you have Signal to Noise. This book has just so many elements to it that were so in my wheelhouse that it would have been slightly worrying if I didn’t love it so much. Set in Mexico City in 1988, the story follows a 15-year-old girl named Meche who is extremely unpopular, and her two equally unpopular friends Sebastian and Daniela. One day, Meche realizes that she is able to cast spells with the aid of music and viny ...more
Oct 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Someone in my book club in Cardiff mentioned Signal to Noise to me with some enthusiasm, and I’d already looked at it speculatively a few times, so I was quite eager to give it a go. Music and magic being linked is hardly a revolutionary idea for me: Orpheus, the enchantment of a good song, the Pied Piper… But this uses music like Bowie and Nina Simone; songs like ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. Popular music, recent music. It’s an accessible sort of magic, and the perfect kind of magic for a teenager ...more
4.5 stars

Review to follow.
Kimberly [Come Hither Books]
Recommended for:
* Music as magic and as the soundtrack of life
* Friendship & magical realism in Mexico City
* Twin story lines in the late 80s and the present

Signal to Noise alternates between scenes in two different time periods. Twin story lines are woven together beautifully. Both stories are interesting in their own right, and chapters are well paced between time lines. Each story enriches the other, giving depth without sacrificing story and emotional suspense. It makes for a fascinating, la
Dec 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
The songs of 'Signal to Noise.' There's a playlist at the end of this post:
Aug 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Between the setting (a rough sketch of impoverished Mexico City) and Meche’s taste in music (more than 50% stuff I didn’t know or haven’t heard), it was difficult for me to get immersed quickly in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Signal to Noise because I had to spend so much mental energy imagining or trying to draw parallels to my own life and hoping they were right. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the tone out of the gate – it came across as pretty harsh, with a lot of sharp, short, terse sentences and ugl ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sff
Music is magic, as any teen could tell you. In SIGNAL TO NOISE, the teen is Meche, who discovers she can work spells with her friends using vinyl records. Of course, the teens seek to change their miserable social lot through magic, with dubious results.

The teens' story is solidly set in 1980s Mexico City, expertly interspersed with chapters recounting adult Meche's return to Mexico City for a family funeral. The back and forth in time feels flawless, as deftly handled as the changes in point-of
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you don't like YA but you like coming of age stories, you'll like this book. If you DO like YA, I think you'll like this book. It hits that really sweet spot of being about young people and appealing to a wide audience.

Signal to Noise is a little bit Ready Player One, a little bit High Fidelity, a little bit The Craft, and also more than those. Meche, the main character, has been branded a "loser" by most of her peers; she runs with a crew of other misfits, but they love each other and they d
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mexico, canada
You probably won't get this novel if you don't remember those times, those situations, where music can be magic. Not just nice to listen to, or even the pure emotional rush of it, but actual honest-to-goodness world-changing magic. And "remember" is indeed a key word here; just like music accesses some part of our brain beyond language, so do memories. Signal To Noise, therefore, takes place in two timelines: in 1989, when three outcasts at a Mexico City high school discover that they can use mu ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
Apr 20, 2015 rated it liked it
This is like a cross between Matilda and The Craft set in Mexico.
Naz (Read Diverse Books)
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Finished writing my review last week. Will have it published in a couple of weeks x)
This book was great, y'all. Closer to 4.5 than 4.
Add it to your TBRs right now!
This isn't kind of book I normally read, it's barely speculative fiction. It had only small touch of fantasy because the kids learned to cast spells using music as their method, but that's actually a small part of the book. It's really about those awkward, painful, miserable teenage years from fifteen to sixteen. Or at least half of the book is about that, more than half maybe. These kids were not popular and were longing for the most popular and beautiful kids in school. They were bullied. One ...more
This was aggressively mediocre for me. But I didn't dislike it like I thought I would! Full review later.

[2.5 stars, rounded up for now]

Read Harder Challenge 2019: An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America.

(six months later)

b. t.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
when i started this book i was immediately pulled into the writing, which is gorgeous and voicey and does an amazing job of totally immersing me in 1980s Mexico City. i adore the protagonist, meche - she's tough but vulnerable, passionate and loyal but has a streak of darkness in her.

but past the 50% mark, things went downhill for me, not because the quality of the storytelling changed but because i really didn't like the direction the story ultimately took. this is partly due to my own expecta
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, let’s measure these decibels. Or something like that, science puns aren’t exactly my forte. But this book somehow was on my radar, so that when I saw it finally become available at the library, I immediately downloaded it. And not just because it says for fans of Stranger Things on the cover. In fact it has precious next to nothing to do with Stranger Things, other than the fact that both are thoroughly steeped in the 80s nostalgia. Stranger Things is science fiction horrorish, Signal to Noi ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy-scifi

This book was—say it with me now—a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT.

I don't know what I expected from this book, but it definitely wasn't this. To put it bluntly, Signal to Noise had zero heart. It was so...surface level. It didn't tug at my heartstrings, it didn't make feel anything. It had about the emotional punch of a textbook. When things were happening to the characters, I was like ok am I supposed to have any emotions about this because I don't ??? The plot was boring, the characters somehow a nauseati
Beth Cato
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received an ebook through NetGalley.

This highly enjoyable novel reminded me of a cross between Charles de Lint's Newford and Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park. Moreno-Garcia evokes magical realism via music in late 1980s Mexico City. Meche is an angry girl--a bitch, quite frankly--who is often the cruelest to her friends Sebastian and Daniela. Meche's life is music and mix tapes. When she realizes she can cast spells via song and pulls her friends into her plot, things escalate in dangerous wa
Hélène Louise
Jun 08, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: feel-bad-book
I actually rather enjoyed my reading - enough to finish the book without any difficulties.
The double pace (now / 20 years ago) was confortable, the writing good, with personality (perhaps a little too much personality : the billion musical references was a tiny bit overwhelming).
But the atmosphere was wrong, during all the book.
The magic in it didn't convinced me either.

The characters were okay to begin with, but they didn't improved, were only outlined, never alive, except for the main one. And
In Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel Signal to Noise, the 1980s are almost over, and Meche is a teenager in Mexico City doing all those random stupid teenager things we all did back then: listening to music all night, riding around on the back of friends’ motorcycles, and casting magic spells in dilapidated factories.

Meche’s dad is trying to make a living as a musician, which in practice works out to spending too much time in bars and not enough time with his family. Meche, already an unpopular
2.5 stars

Too long and burdened by a deeply unsympathetic protagonist who never seemed to grow and certainly didn't merit the happy ending handed to her like an obligatory party favour at the end of the book.

While not technically YA fiction, this had many of the flaws I really hate in that genre: endless snappy banter that feels unreal, secondary and tertiary characters who read more like caricatures than human beings, and a reliance on past popular culture (in this case popular music) to give t
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I read the last 1/3 of this book in a streetside cafe and it was a big mistake because I had to focus really hard on not tearing up. That's just how good Silvia Moreno-Garcia is at bringing her characters to life and drawing me into their lives.

This novel is a few different things. It's a gently observed portrait of a first love so pure that even the lovers, teenagers whose ideas about these things are shaped by pop culture and hormones after all, don't realise they are in love. It's a beautifu
Book #31 for 2017
Old Firehouse Books Summer Bingo Square: A Book by a Female Author
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica's Ultimate Reading Challenge: A book set in two different time periods
PopSugar's Ultimate Reading Challenge (max. 3):
- A book by a person of color
- A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
- A book set in two different time periods
Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge:
- A book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American autho
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Read Women: Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 4 20 Jun 07, 2021 11:11AM  
Eclectic Readers: Episode 60: Signal to Noise 1 4 Jun 09, 2019 01:47PM  
Eclectic Readers: Signal to Noise 1 4 Jun 09, 2019 01:21PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Missing Page Count 9 193 Jun 07, 2017 02:51PM  

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow and Untamed Shore. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu's Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. ...more

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“I hurt people, once.'
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Grandma touched Meche's chin. 'Don't they always, when you're a girl?”
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