READ THE COMPLETE AND ORIGINAL REVIEW (AND MANY MORE) AT WORD SPELUNKING I was very excited to get the chance to read and review Expense, the second volume in Jason Letts’ The Spencer Nye Trilogy, and it did not disappoint! With this book, Letts has continued to build a captivating dystopian story with inventive sci-fi elements, engaging characters, and a well-developed and layered world. BRIEF SUMMARYThis second book picks up a few months after Suspense and finds Spencer Nye trying to save the world. With the loss of the molecular synthesizers, the world must now figure out how to provide for itself, plus there’s the looming threat of an Orra invasion. Spencer, Patch, Cleary and the others are desperate to come up with a solution and end up organizing a gala at the once secluded Chateaux. But the group soon learns that the Orra are not the only threat they have to worry about. A new group calling themselves the Golden Horde, made of thieves and thugs, has risen. Spencer finds herself going great distances to seek answers as she becomes desperate to save the people she cares about. STORYExpense is an action-packed, fast paced thrill ride. Once I began reading, I couldn’t put the book down, and when I finished I couldn’t believe just how quickly the time flew. This is one of those stories that pulls you in from page one and has you quickly turning pages, eager to find out what happens next. There’s a stellar mix of sci-fi, mystery, action, and romance.The story moves fast and it has to. This quick pace reflects the urgency of the situation Spencer and the other characters have found themselves in, and it works well for the story being told. I didn’t find this fast pace to be overwhelming or distracting, and for the most part, the overall storyline flows nicely.The world that has been created and laid out in this book, as well as the first, continues to impress me. The sci-fi elements are innovative and original; the dystopian world is startling and fascinating, and the emotional aspects are realistic and relatable. I really like the way that the world and story Letts has created feels both immense and quite intimate at the same time. Expense is very much about Spencer’s personal journey as she struggles with romantic feelings, her doubts and insecurities, and figuring out just who she wants to be, which is where the intimacy comes from. Yet, the global starvation problem, the looming threat of an Orra attack, and the new problems caused by the Golden Horde make the story feel big and significant. The mix of both intimacy and immensity creates a very dynamic, layered story.It was interesting to see the aftermath of the events in the first book and to explore how much the world had changed because of Spencer’s actions. In this book, the once revered Idols have become less important and the world has become volatile and fragile. People no longer know what to believe in and this makes them uneasy, anxious, and hostile. There’s a great realism in the way the world in this book begins to fall apart and shift in reaction to the events in Suspense. A realism that I continue to find fascinating and intriguing.There is one aspect of this story that I’m still not sure about. In Suspense, when Spencer is briefly transformed into a guy, she and her BFF Jetta (who is a cyborg) are intimate and Jetta becomes pregnant. Now, I’m about as open minded as they come, but I still find this situation a bit weird and a little off putting. I think my biggest issue with this situation is that I’m still not sure what its purpose is. It’s not clear whether or not this pregnancy or this baby will play a significant role in the overall storyline. If the sole purpose of this pregnancy is simply to show Spencer’s softer, compassionate side or to give her something to fight for then I think this could have been accomplished in other ways. There’s still one more book to go, so my opinion on this may change, but as of right now, I find this element a bit unnecessary.Overall, Letts' writing is fresh and excellent. The ending of Expense leaves us with a breathtaking cliffhanger that has me desperately wanting more! CHARACTERSSpencer continues to be a character that I genuinely like and want to root for. In this book, we really get to know her better and more intimately. She’s still feisty, brave, determined, and strong, but she’s also quite vulnerable and insecure in this book. I think she feels more like a realistic, relatable teenage girl in this book than she did in the first. There were times when I found myself completely frustrated by her though. Particularly, when we are introduced to her father. The glimpses we got of her former life and relationship with her father kind of make her seem like an ungrateful, spoiled brat. I must admit that I found it hard to separate who she used to be from the character she is in the present, making it a little difficult to connect with her in this book.I find Patch’s character to be equally compelling and frustrating. I want to get to know more about Patch, especially after one of his secrets is revealed in this book. I found myself really liking Patch in the first book and most of this book until he went and acted like a stupid boy. Pfft! But I think it’s a good sign when a character gets under my skin so much; it means he’s well developed, intriguing, and worth reading about.We get to know a few of the other characters a bit more (Cleary, Taka-chan, Cassandra), we get to meet a few new, interesting characters (Mr. Thorpe, Kiwi, Mr. Nye), and there are a few characters that I really hope to get to know more about in the last book (Aspen, Jetta, the Orra). **ROMANCEThere are a few romantic relationships that are explored or at least briefly touched upon in this book, and I can’t really discuss them without being a bit spoilery…Spencer and Cleary…this romance kind of fizzles out before it can even ignite. Although I can’t say this surprised me. Spencer’s waning interest in Cleary was made clear in Suspense, but it was still sad to see Spencer break Cleary’s heart.Spencer and Jetta…I’m still not sure where these two stand. They clearly love each other, but do they love each other as BFF’s or are they in love with each other? I have no idea and it’s not explained at all in this book.Spencer and Patch…Grrr. This romance actually makes me growl in frustration! Spencer’s growing feelings for Patch are made clear (to readers) in the beginning of the book and Patch’s feelings for her seem so obvious. Even in the first book, it seemed like he was in love with her, and all throughout this book it seemed like something intense and powerful was building between these two until it all exploded in one passionate scene. But instead of a much needed cold shower, I was smacked in the face with a bucket of icy water. Without giving anything away, let’s just say I was not happy with the way this romance played out AT ALL. And I’ll admit that from a literary standpoint, the twist employed concerning this relationship did make for a shocking surprise. But from a fangirl’s standpoint and from a reader’s (who was silently rooting for this relationship since book one) standpoint, I feel a bit gipped and duped.Now, even though I clearly have strong feelings concerning the romantic aspects of this book, I do want to note that the romance is not a dominating factor in this book or the series and therefore, my feelings on this subject have not ruined my overall enjoyment of this book and series.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Expense is an exciting, gripping read. This is an awesome second volume in what is turning out to be a phenomenal series. You should definitely take the time to read this book and series!