apologized to McCafferty for
unconscious copying Few Phrases
April 24, 2006
"Oh, I thought those were my notes" and the "I was
in too much of a hurry," this one: unconscious copying. Yesterday,
Kaavya Viswanathan was trying to explain how about 13 passages similar
to those of another author ended up in her book, "How Opal
Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life."
Viswanathan's novel was ranked 32nd on the New York Times's hardcover
fiction bestseller list and reportedly has landed a movie deal with
In a statement released by her publishing house, Little, Brown
and Co., Viswanathan said she had read and loved McCafferty's books
a few years ago, while she was in high school.
"While the central stories of my book and hers are completely
different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms.
McCafferty's words," Viswanathan's statement read. "I
am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing
similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional
Viswanathan also apologized to McCafferty and "to any who
feel they have been misled by these unintentional errors."
Novel Faces Plagiarism Controversy
Sophomores New Book Contains Passages Strikingly Similar to
Kaavya Viswanathans Opal Mehta includes several
passages nearly identical to another authors earlier work;
that work's publisher is looking into the matter
Published On Sunday, April 23, 2006 7:57 PM
By DAVID ZHOU
Crimson Staff Writer
A recently-published novel by Harvard undergraduate Kaavya Viswanathan
08, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got
a Life," contains several passages that are strikingly similar
to two books by Megan F. McCaffertythe 2001 novel "Sloppy
Firsts" and the 2003 novel "Second Helpings."
At one point, "Opal Mehta" contains a 14-word passage
that appears verbatim in McCaffertys book "Sloppy Firsts."
Reached on her cell phone Saturday night, Viswanathan said, No
comment. I have no idea what you are talking about.
McCafferty, the author of three novels and a former editor at the
magazine Cosmopolitan, wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson Saturday
night: Im already aware of this situation, and so is
McCafferty first heard about the similiarites between the books
on April 11 in an e-mail from a fan, according to her agent Joanna
Pulcini. Pulcini said that she notified Random House, which published
both of McCaffertys novels, about the matter.
"Our author has been in touch with us about this and we are
taking these allegations very seriously," said Stuart Applebaum,
a spokesman for Random House. When asked whether Random House has
lodged a complaint with Viswanathan's publisher, Little, Brown,
Applebaum said: "Publishing protocol dictates that one contacts
the publisher of the book whose text may bear alleged similarities.
So it is customary, it would be customary, for us to reach out to
the publisher you name."
Little, Brown signed Viswanathan to a two-book, $500,000 contract
while she was in high school. This is the first book that the Harvard
sophomore has produced for the publisher under that deal, and it
reached 32nd on the New York Times' hardcover fiction bestseller
list this week.
Representatives from Little, Brown have not returned requests for
DreamWorks has purchased the movie rights to Viswanathans
novel. A DreamWorks spokesman, Bob Feldman, said Saturday night
that the studio could not immediately respond.
While the two novels differ in plot, the similarities in language
begin in the opening pages and continue throughout the works.
The following examples are among the clearest parallels between
the two novels. Italics appeared in the originals:
YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE
From page 6 of McCaffertys first novel: Sabrina
was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had
to be one or the other: Pretty or smart. Guess which one I got.
Youll see where its gotten me.
From page 39 of Viswanathans novel: Moneypenny
was the brainy female character. Yet another example of how every
girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty. I had long resigned
myself to category one, and as long as it got me to Harvard, I was
happy. Except, it hadnt gotten me to Harvard. Clearly, it
was time to switch to category two.
I NEEDED IN A BEST FRIEND
From page 7 of McCaffertys first novel: Bridget
is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years
of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend.
But that was before Bridgets braces came off and her boyfriend
Burke got on, before Hope and I met in our seventh-grade honors
From page 14 of Viswanathans novel: Priscilla
was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years
of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best
friend. We had first bonded over our mutual fascination with the
abacus in a playgroup for gifted kids. But that was before freshman
year, when Priscillas glasses came off, and the first in a
long string of boyfriends got on.
From page 23 of McCaffertys first novel: Hes
got dusty reddish dreads that a girl could never run her hands through.
His eyes are always half-shut. His lips are usually curled in a
semi-smile, like hes in on a big joke thats being played
on you but you dont know it yet.
From page 48 of Viswanathans novel: He had too-long
shaggy brown hair that fell into his eyes, which were always half
shut. His mouth was always curled into a half smile, like he knew
about some big joke that was about to be played on you.
'SOMETHING SO RANDOM
From page 217 of McCaffertys first novel: But
then he tapped me on the shoulder, and said something so random
that I was afraid he was back on the junk.
From page 142 of Viswanathans novel:
tapped me on the shoulder and said something so random I worried
that he needed more expert counseling than I could provide.
170 SPECIALTY SHOPS LATER
From page 237 of McCaffertys first novel: Finally,
four major department stores and 170 specialty shops later, we were
From page 51 of Viswanathans novel: Five department
stores, and 170 specialty shops later, I was sick of listening to
her hum along to Alicia Keys
INVADING MY PERSONAL SPACE
From page 213 of McCaffertys first novel: Marcus
then leaned across me to open the passenger-side door. He was invading
my personal space, as I had learned in Psych class, and I instinctively
sank back into the seat. That just made him move in closer. I was
practically one with the leather at this point, and unless I hopped
into the backseat, there was nowhere else for me to go.
From page 175 of Viswanathans novel: Sean stood
up and stepped toward me, ostensibly to show me the book. He was
definitely invading my personal space, as I had learned in a Human
Evolution class last summer, and I instinctively backed up till
my legs hit the chair I had been sitting in. That just made him
move in closer, until the grommets in the leather embossed the backs
of my knees, and he finally tilted the book toward me.
COME ON, I WANT TO TALK TO YOU
From page 209 of McCaffertys first novel:
I live less than half a mile from here.
Twelve Forest Drive.
So I dont need a ride
But do you want one? he asked.
God, did I want one.
He knew it, too. He leaned over the front seat and popped
open the passenger-side door. Come on, I want to talk to you,
From page 172 of Viswanathans novel:
I was just dropping off some books.
Im supposed to be home by nine. And its already eight-forty.
So I cant really stay
But you want to? he asked.
Did I? Yes
He knew it, too. He patted the chair again. Come on,
I want to talk to you, he said.
'TO BUY DIET COKES FROM'
From page 67 of McCafferty's second novel, "Second
Helpings": "...but in a truly sadomasochistic dieting
gesture, they chose to buy their Diet Cokes at Cinnabon."
From page 46 of Viswanathan's novel: "In a truly masochistic
gesture, they had decided to buy Diet Cokes from Mrs. Fields."