Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn is the son of The Hill’s commandant. As such, he’s expected to conform to a strict, unspoken code of conduct. Small acts of defiance over years—such as walking on the grass—have earned him a reputation for being unruly. When sarcastic test answers finally get Matty expelled from school, King Hadrian offers him a diploma if he can answer a deceptively simple question, and then dismisses the only answer.
To prove his worth to society, Matty wrestles with the king’s word games, the kingdom’s historical record, and laws that don’t make sense. He meets Iris Locke, a street-smart gardener, along the way. After enchanting him at a glance, Iris helps his research, keeps him out of trouble, and finally breaks his heart. Alone again, Matty finds himself on collision course with a deadly law, one he will have to break to answer the king’s question.
Was Hadrian challenging him, or teaching him a lesson? Without Iris, it won’t matter, because Matty won’t stand down for anyone else.
January Black is the 2013 Readers' Favorite Silver Medal winner in the YA Coming of Age category.