In Mixed Signals, the world is still recovering from the major cataclysmic event that occurred in Radio Silence and that we learned the origin of in Signal Boost. Four years have passed since the initial blackout, and life must go on. Maggie Seong, having spent the latter half of her teenage years tucked away in a cabin with her family, is heading off to one of the first post-disaster college programs. Although Maggie is reluctant to leave her family behind, she’s soon caught up in the drama of a blast from the past in the form of her ex Devon and a possible future with Edwin Hernandez, her brother’s friend and her self-appointed protector. Underlying Maggie’s journey of self-discovery is a danger that threatens four years of progress, and everything Maggie holds dear.
One thing that writing this book made abundantly clear to me is that my college experience was a very long time ago. Even though Mixed Signals has a post-apocalyptic setting, Maggie’s school life is more technologically advanced than mine in some ways! One thing I suspect wouldn’t be so different is the kind of people you’re forced into cohabitation with. If you went to college/lived on campus, maybe some of these people will trigger your memory—please share your fun dorming stories in the comments!! (I will preface this with the note that I was the socially awkward chick who blasted Dido songs on repeat in her room, so all generalizations are made in fun.) Here are the five people you meet when you get to your freshman dorm:
These guys probably played rugby/football/baseball together in high school. They use the same hair gel, but one uses it to spike his hair up and the other to slick his hair down. When you walk past their room, you’ll smell Old Spice seeping out from under the door, and if you’re their neighbor you’ll have to ask them to stop bumping whatever hip-hop artist is popular at the moment after quiet hours.
This guy or gal was on the bottom of the totem pole in high school but college offers a new opportunity to join “the cool crowd.” You’ll find them lurking outside the jock roommates’ door, or hanging out in the communal lounge talking too loudly about all the frat parties they’ve attended. The Phoenix is allergic to people from their high school and must rush away whenever they see someone who dredges up buried shame.
This is the person who is easy to get along with, always super nice when you have a conversation with them, and, you begin to suspect, perhaps a serial killer trawling the dorm for victims. Certain stories don’t add up, and they often leave town to visit significant others who are clearly imaginary. My PbC dorm-mate enjoyed habits such as giving herself arm hickeys and claiming she’d received it from a jock roommate.
Not necessarily a bad guy (and yes, usually a guy), the Libertarian will get high in his dorm room and then come to the communal lounge to educate everyone on states’ rights and how free markets lead to equality, while wearing a Che t-shirt made by children in Bangladesh and a phone produced by workers held in captivity.
The gossip maven can be any gender. They are integral to the dorm eco-system, providing Monday morning recaps of everyone’s weekend tomfoolery and snapshots of students behaving badly. They also let you know which roommates are ready to strangle each other, which courses you should take the following semester, and which dining hall meals to stay away from on any given day.
For Maggie Seong, that means leaving the safety of her family’s cabin for college. She won’t be alone, though—hunky former military cadet Edwin Hernandez, family friend and self-appointed Protector of Maggie’s Virtue, will be there. Maggie would much prefer that Edwin himself dispose of her “innocence,” but he’s already rejected her advances once, and a girl has her pride.
Things look pretty bleak romance-wise until Maggie discovers that Devon, the pre-Flare internet boyfriend she’d assumed was dead, is not only alive but on campus. Despite the passage of time, their bond is strong, and they quickly pick up where they left off. Even as Devon aims for a chance at love IRL—everything Maggie thought she’d wanted—Edwin’s desire to protect her makes her question her heart.
Maggie’s torn between the future she didn’t dare to hope for and the past she can’t let go of. And when a group of neo-Luddite terrorists threaten the campus, everyone’s loyalties will be tested. To ensure that the world doesn’t go back to the dark days following the Flare, Maggie might have to sacrifice it all.