After reading Sara Alva's "Social Skills," I was eager to read "Pura Vida" and was not disappointed in the least. "Pura Vida" is comparatively short, less than 100 pages, but in that span, Alva manages to create the vivid landscape of Costa Rica and create a rich story of Simon, who is dealing with being forced into an open relationship over the summer, and Juan, a local guy who protects turtles and makes an immediate impression on Simon.
Things start off rocky when Simon accidentally scares some turtles and Juan comes to stop him, but soon Simon is swept up in a whirlwind of heated frenzy through various hookups with Juan. This should feel good, doing exactly what Leo is doing, but he can't help but keep his heart out of it and soon he's questioning if there's more to this relationship, if Juan feels there is. I thought the progression with these two characters was well paced and believable, and Juan's snarkiness gave way for some really tender moments between them.
Also intertwined in the story is Simon's father, who isn't completely comfortable with his son being gay, but he's getting there. I really liked the way Alva threaded that aspect into the story as well, as it gave Simon's world a little more dimension and made him more relatable. And the marine life and cultural differenes, although simply worked in, gave the story a spin that made it stand out from various other gay YA novels.
Simon's final days in Costa Rica, in the final chapter (not the epilogue) surprised me and the epilogue satisfied me. I was impressed that Alva was able to wrap up the narrative so tightly in a way that felt realistic for these characters and their circumstances.
Having read two of Alva's works, I'm even more eager to read "Silent." Alva has mastered this craft wonderfully and emphatically recommend her works to anyone!