How Kaavya Viswanathan Got a Book Deal, Got a Bad Idea, and Got Caught

Mary
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A few years ago, Kaavya Viswanathan, a hard-driving Indian teenage girl who wanted to go to Harvard, scored a huge book deal at age 17 for "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," a sparkling little novel about"¦ a hard-driving Indian teenage girl who wants to go to Harvard. As documented by the Harvard Crimson this week, it seems that K.V., now a sophomore at her beloved university, didn't take her inspiration solely from her own short life "“ she also apparently lifted a good bit of her book from two novels by Megan McCafferty, "Sloppy Firsts" and "Second Helpings." My initial reaction was as follows:

 

scha·den·freu·de

Pronunciation: 'shä-d&n-"froi-d&
Function: noun
Usage: often capitalized
Etymology: German, from Schaden damage + Freude joy
: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

 

But then I realized that I am 27 and have a career that is just fine and therefore shouldn't be jeering at some poor teenage kid who made a dumb mistake, even if her first book deal was way bigger than mine will ever be, aaaaarrrrrrgh.

 

So, anyway. K.V. may feel a bit friendless right now, but she's in good company:

 

- Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism as a young girl for a school composition. Mortified, she determined to have all future compositions screened by her friends before submission.

 

- According to a Boston University investigation into academic misconduct, Martin Luther King, Jr. plagiarized over one third of the chapter of his doctoral thesis that summarizes the concepts of God expressed by Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.

 

- In 2002, best-selling author Stephen Ambrose was accused of plagiarizing several passages which he footnoted but did not enclose in the customary quotation marks.

 

- In her 1987 book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, Doris Kearns Goodwin interviewed author Lynne McTaggart and used passages from McTaggart's book about Kathleen Kennedy with permission.
 

And yes, for those of you who've had your coffee this morning, I did in fact just blatantly plagiarize all that information from three Wikipedia entries.

John, as a novelist with a YA specialty yourself, what are your thoughts on this mini-disaster? Will K.V. write again? Should she?

 

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April 27, 2006 - 2:13am
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