Common read connects newest Exonians

Incoming ninth- and 10th-graders have been assigned Elizabeth Acevedo's novel in verse The Poet X.

Patrick Garrity
July 23, 2020
As I lie in bed,
thinking of this new school year, 
I feel myself
stretching my skin part.
Even with my Amazon frame,
I feel too small for all that’s inside me.
I want to break myself open
like an egg smacked hard against an edge.
Teachers always say
that each school year is a new start:
But even before this day
I think I’ve been beginning.


This short poem, "Night before the First Day of School," tucked into Elizabeth Acevedo’s crackling novel The Poet X seizes on the feeling of possibility in a fresh start and on the metamorphosis of adolescence. It is sure to speak to the newest Exonians preparing to launch their Exeter experience. 

It’s also part of their first homework assignment.

For a second year, incoming ninth-graders — now joined by new 10th-graders — have been asked to read the same text before the school year begins. The “common read” is part of a program intended to connect new students, help them develop a sense of community and prepare them for life at Exeter. 

Their assignment: Acevedo’s celebrated novel in verse about a Latinx girl coming of age in Harlem, wrestling with her sexuality, her restrictive family and trying to find her voice in slam poetry. The work won the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, among other honors. Wrote The New York Times Book Review:

“Somehow, Acevedo’s powerful free verse manages to stay contained within the book’s covers. The force and intensity behind her words practically pushes them off the page, resulting in a verse novel that is felt as much as it is heard.”

Acevedo will visit campus in February to speak at assembly as well as an evening lecture and Q&A session. She will also attend a number of English classes to discuss the craft of writing.

“We hope that this book encourages you to consider how you might define or understand home, how you might examine and explore elements of your own identity, and how to explore and embrace a diverse range of perspectives and experiences,” Dean of Students Brooks Moriarty and English Instructor Tyler Caldwell, director of the ninth-grade program, wrote to students when assigning the book. “We read to understand and empathize and value the lives of others, especially those whose lives differ from our own.”

Watch Acevedo read excerpts from the book and talk about her craft: