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Kaavya borrows passages for 'Opal'

Kaavya Viswanathan says it was an accident and promises to change her book for future editions.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 14:42 IST

A Harvard University sophomore with a highly publicized first novel acknowledged that she had borrowed material, accidentally, from another author's work and promised to change her book for future editions.

Kaavya Viswanathan's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, published in March by Little, Brown and Company, was the first of a two-book deal reportedly worth six figures. But on Sunday, the Harvard Crimson cited seven passages in Viswanathan's book that closely resemble the style and language of the novels of Megan McCafferty.

"When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, which spoke to me in a way few other books did. Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel and passages in these books," Viswanathan, 19, said in a statement issued by her publisher yesterday.

 
Kaavya Vishwanathan admits that her book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life borrowed passages from another novel

"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.

Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch told The Associated Press yesterday that he did not think Viswanathan's borrowings were caused by the pressures of being both a student and an author.

 
Former Cosmopolitan editor Megan McCafferty also writes novels for young adults

Pietsch also declined to blame Viswanathan's collaboration with 17th Street Productions Inc., a book packager that specializes in teen narratives and helped her develop the story.

"Every word in that book was written by her, for better or for worse," he said, adding that work on a new edition would begin "tomorrow."

Viswanathan, who was 17 when she signed her contract with Little, Brown, is the youngest author signed by the publisher in decades. DreamWorks has already acquired the movie rights to her first book.

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. Opal's father concocts a plan code-named HOWGAL (How Opal Will Get A Life) to get her past the admissions office.

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.