Tenley Eakin ’02 Writes Controversial Book Based On Her Experience at Phillips Academy

News of “One Tablet Daily,” a novel by Tenley Eakin ’02 based on her high school experiences, has reached Phillips Academy and provoked controversy among alumni and teachers. The information for the book came from the diary Eakin began during her Junior year, though she changed the names and places in the novel to maintain anonymity. The novel takes place at “John Whitbury Academy,” a school that Eakin writes is “located on a hilltop in eastern Massachusetts.” Much of the controversy of the novel stems from Eakin’s open account of her and others’ drug and alcohol use at Andover. Eakin writes about students trading medications, getting drunk and high and being “blitzed out of [their] minds.” Shawn Fulford, an Instructor in Mathematics who has read the novel, said, “The drug usage, that’s where I think [“One Tablet Daily”] hurts the school.” Eakin also writes about a lack of integrity in Whitbury’s academics. “If you want to get a good mark in the course, the last thing you should do [is] disagree with the teacher,” she writes. “I wrote this book because it was something I needed to do. I was carrying a lot of stuff within me, and I needed to get it out on paper, as a lot of writers do,” she said. “I didn’t hold back. I let everything out,” Eakin said. “It was what I was experiencing. It was my truth. To me it was not controversial, it was me.” In the book, Eakin describes her high school experience from Junior year orientation to her college acceptance Senior year. The novel was published last March. A portion of the novel is available online, and only recently, some parents and faculty members have expressed concern over the content of the book. Fulford said that a significant number of Phillips Academy alumni and parents have also read the novel. Fulford met with two different groups of alumni during winter break. She said that the novel upset both groups. She said that many of the alumni she spoke with were upset with Eakin’s depiction of the event’s surrounding a student suicide. “It just struck me that [Eakin] was unnecessarily hitting a nerve,” Fulford said. “I’m not sure what her point was.” Murphy said, “[The novel] really trivializes suicide, it seems disrespectful to do the what-ifs,” he said. Eakin acknowledged that her account of the suicide might not be entirely accurate, but she believes that her story is true. “To my eyes, [“One Tablet Daily”] is all factual. There is a little hyperbole, but it’s also a reflection,” she said. Tracy Sweet, Director of Communications, declined to comment on Eakin’s book, but wrote in an email, “Each case of potentially negative publicity is handled differently, depending on its facts and merits.” Murphy said, “If you’re attracted to Andover, you’re attracted to freedom and independence.” “If you want to be sneaky, you can be sneaky,” he continued. “[The book] can be pretty damaging to a place like this. Maybe we shouldn’t be as free flowing,’” Murphy said. Eakin said, “I don’t hope [“One Tablet Daily”] will affect [Andover] in any way, nor do I think it will have an effect.” Eakin wrote the novel during her sophomore year at Princeton but did not get it published until she had graduated. Despite the lurid stories detailed in her novel, Eakin looks back fondly on her time at Andover. “I don’t regret any moment of it. I’d go back and do it all over again in a flash,” she said. Eakin currently resides in Flagstaff, Arizona, teaching AP English. She hopes to teach special education after receiving a degree in Education. She is working on another book which documents her time at Princeton University.