Wednesday, May 03, 2006

People...give the poor girl a break! -Kaavya Viswanathan

The publishers have pulled out the book "How Opal Mehta got kissed, got wild and got a life. She is not going to write the sequel too. Grabbing a 6 figure amount for a book at the bare age of 17 makes you wonder at awe. I was just looking at Amazon's list of reviews for this book, and let me tell you, there were people who sympathized with her. Here are a few excerpts. Now wait, I am not plaigiarising. I am openly pasting comments left by some readers.
"I've read excerpts and similarities of other books and I really didn't see word-for-word plagiarism in this novel. Many authors plagiarize each other's work. It's a form of flattery. I read it all the time in novels and non-fiction. Sometimes I'll read one author's work and say . . . "hmm, deja vu. I've read this somewhere before." Then I'll remember where I read it in another author's work. Somebody in the industry is out to get this girl for whatever reason and I think it's terrible. But beware you green-eyed monster, whoever you are, cause what goes around comes around! You can bank on it! Don't worry Kaavya. You're young and talented. You can comeback using a pseudonym. "---5 stars
"I just went back and reread James Joyces "Ulysses" as well as Milton's "Paradise Lost"---there are several uncanny resemblances between "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life"....I wonder how many other sources of her literary theft are yet to be uncovered in yet another expose. We should all move on with our lives, and leave this pathetic young woman alone. She is suffering through purgatory with no end in sight."
This was actually written by a desi aunty who found similarities to Milton...hahahahaha...sure desi gossips don't end. But then, this one really threw me off.
"Thanks to you - we have another thing to be embarrassed about now. I am one of the many desis who is from a middle class family. My parents don't have the kind of money your parents do and I went to an average state college but I still have MORE CREDIBILITY THAN YOU!! I worked my way through college and did internships at investment firms and now hold a Senior position at a major brokerage. Being an Indian woman myself I am so ashamed at what you did, despite the financial and academic resources that you had access to, you are a CHEAT! Also just to let you know - I did read that you wanted to work on wall street after graduation. My employer along with any other brokerage house VALUES AND EXPECTS - HONESTY AND INTEGRITY more than anything else and you don't have either of those qualities. GOOD JOB YOU CHEAT! "---Another Desi.
The interesting part of these reviews are before the plagiarisation charges were framed, reviewers gave 4-5 stars calling it a very encouraging novel from a 17 year old. Why the sudden change after these framing charges? She was 17 years old and she took inspiration from the other books that she had lifted off, but still, she wrote a novel and it stands 57th best seller at amazon.


Anonymous Pradeep Selvaraj said...

First of all, I think this is a much hyped up issue.

I totally agree that there can be similarties in language, style or even a series of words between 2 books among the millions of books every written. Do I call that plagiarism, no definitely not. But this one is rather compelling. Take a look at this website

There are a few passages or sentences quoted which, when I read independent of the rest, I will discount from being called plagiarism, but may be call a strong influence of another book. But when you look at so many passages, sentences all from one or two books written by the same author and so similar... perhaps I should take my discounts back.

Kaavya had made the following statement that she was a big fan of the Megan McCafferty.
"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. I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious. My publisher and I plan to revise my novel for future printings to eliminate any inappropriate similarities.

"I sincerely apologize to Megan McCafferty and to any who feel they have been misled by these unintentional errors on my part."
(from )

All that said, Kaavya's book definitely listed as a best seller on amazon, with such high revenue, has a different plot compared to McCafferty’s book -For that I give her full credit. It is not without skill that she could come out with such a big best seller novel.

Though these sentences or passages constitute to such a miniscule portion of her book, I would say -
Kaavya, you have great skills. If you have read and enjoyed another author's words to be a big fan, I am sure you can be conscious while using the same words. With your skills, I dont think you would need to use similar/borrowed words or passages or sentences to be successful. You will be a huge success. Good Luck.

- Pradeep Selvaraj

May 06, 2006 11:33 AM  
Blogger Vikram Prasad said...


I agree with you on all counts. I read the Harvard Crimson too. What made me write this post was the attitude shown by fellow desis. It looked to me like a personal grudge these people had once they came to know about the plagiarism charges hurled at her. Kaavya, if by any chance you end up on this blog, Myself and CSP are there to cheer you girl!

PS: CSP and Dinesh...why don't you leave your thoughts on the previous post that I had written. I want to know what you people think about that. Are we all in the same wavelenght, else you guys differ in opinion. Please.


May 06, 2006 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Ajay said...

It does not matter how young you are or what you have achieved as a result of your work. If you have borrowed someone else's work without their permission it is PLAGIARIZING. It is as simple as that. It is not that serious back home, but people in the US view it very seriously. I think the other “desis” reactions have blinded you from the fact that what Kaavya has done is deplorable. It is even more surprising because she has been raised in the US where (in schools and universities) “Academic integrity” is repeatedly drilled into your head.

I found this in the link CSP sent out. "All three novels chart the lives of teenage girls living in suburban New Jersey.” The three novels here are Kaavya’s and Megan McCafferty (the author of the 2 books that Kaavya plagiarized from)

This is what the McCafferty had to say “After reading the book in question, and finding passages, characters, and plot points in common, I do hope this can be resolved in a manner that is fair to all of the parties involved.”

I also found this in an article in

“Viswanathan's novel tells the story of Opal, a hard-driving teen from New Jersey who earns straight A's in high school but who gets rejected from Harvard because she forgot to have a social life.

“McCafferty's books follow a heroine named Jessica, a New Jersey girl who excels in high school but struggles with her identity and longs for a boyfriend.

Based on these comments it looks like she not only had similar passages in the book, but her main plot is very similar to McCafferty’s. I guess you will really know if you read all the 3 books and I don’t plan to as I am not an avid reader.

As far as whether she will be successful, I think it is highly unlikely that any other publisher will trust her work again. I read that they have already pulled out her books from the stores and I don’t think it will be republished again. It is only a matter of time before her publishers revoke her 6 figure deal.

May 07, 2006 1:32 PM  

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