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How Opal Mehta Plagiarized

All of us have done stupid things when we were young. The problem with being a rich kid who goes to Harvard and gets a six figure deal for their first book, is that when you do something stupid, people get the pitchforks out. It may be an issue of outrage at someone who wasted an opportunity most people don’t get but this isn’t about psychology.

It’s about the book you never read, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life (2006). It’s also about the author, a freshman at Harvard named, Kaavya Viswanathan, and how she was exposed as a no good cheater thanks to some serious detective work…by the author she plagiarized.

No sooner had the highly publicized, Indian answer to Bridget Jones been shelved, that booksellers received an emergency notice to pull all copies. It turned out that legitimate author, Megan McCafferty, was encouraged to read the novel and then she started to find familiar sentences. Sentences ripped off of her own series that included, Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings.

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“But then he tapped me on the shoulder, and said something so random that I was afraid he was back on the junk.” – McCafferty

“…he tapped me on the shoulder and said something so random I worried that he needed more expert counseling than I could provide.” – Viswanathan

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“…but in a truly sadomasochistic dieting gesture, they chose to buy their Diet Cokes at Cinnabon.” – McCafferty

“In a truly masochistic gesture, they had decided to buy Diet Cokes from Mrs. Fields…” – Viswanathan

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Then readers recognized paragraphs from books by Meg Cabot, Salman Rushdie, and Sophia Kinsella. Everyone demanded answers. The publisher, Little, Brown, was embarrassed. Despite overwhelming evidence, Kaavya blamed her “photographic memory”. She was dropped by her publisher and shunned by the literary community but she still graduated from Harvard in 2008.

Nicolina Torres
Nicolina Torres

Nikki worked for Barnes & Noble for 15 years, in seven stores. She is the author of This Red Fire, Young Nation, and Girls Who Wear Glasses. She prefers to live in the country and is a new aunt to a potential bookworm.

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