How Opal Mehta Got Busted

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opalmehtaThe publishing world has been all abuzz the past few weeks over Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan’s new book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. Even the Blue and White fell under the spell of a peer with a $500,000 book deal and reviewed the book in this month’s print edition.

Well, frustrated authors, rejoice! It was all too good to be true. The Harvard Crimson published an article tonight claiming that Kaavya plagariazed portions of fellow young adult chick lit (yes, that’s a real genre) author Megan McCafferty’s first two books.

Does that name sound familiar? Here’s the Columbia twist– Ms. McCafferty was the gentle vision in a red sundress who graced Columbia’s bookstore last week with a reading (Bwog was there). Her third book takes place at Columbia, but we doubt Kaavya will get a second novel to work that into.

Textbook plagiarism after the jump and more in the Crimson article.


From page 7 of McCafferty’s 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 Bridget’s braces came off and her boyfriend Burke got on, before Hope and I met in our seventh-grade honors classes.

From page 14 of Viswanathan’s 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 Priscilla’s glasses came off, and the first in a long string of boyfriends got on.”


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.”

UPDATE: Josh Mathew, who reviewed the novel in the April Blue and White, writes in:

Hmm…Maybe they should rename it How Opal Mehta Lost Her $500,000 Book Deal, Movie Deal, and the Chance to Ever Work in the
Publishing Industry Again

Or maybe Josh should just stop making those damn “How Opal Mehta…”

Either way, I’m satiated.

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  1. sv  

    nice job, josh, for exposing the novel for what it was in your well-written review!

  2. cj  

    1. I'm awash with schadenfreude

    2. you guys have to blog this ridiculous series of "college previews" done up by the WB, including columbia, which I found on a harvard blog (see, it had something to do with this post). here's the columbia one:


  3. ha  

    I find this hilarious, especially since I'm taking a class that focuses on plagiarism in postcolonial lit now. Those authors plagiarize writers like Borges and Graham Greene, but apparently even populist literature is susceptible.

  4. well  

    It's not so much plagiarism *of* postcolonial lit as focusing on postcolonial writers who are accused of plagiarism. It's an English dept. class taught by Prof. Slaughter.

  5. jeez  

    yeah, i went to the same high school as she did. when we all heard about her book deal, we weren't too surprised. very smart, did everything by the book to get into college. but how the mighty have fallen. i don't get why she plagiarized. jeez.

  6. spec editor  

    nice reporting, bwog

  7. haha  

    hahaha columbia is better than harvard

    • why  

      because their student copied our alum's shitty "literature"? aren't we ivy leaguers supposed to grow up to be more interesting/important than this?

      another sad thing: the harvard student got a movie deal out of her book, our alum has written three of these books and gotten jack shit.

      oh btw: robyn schneider, I hope you're not mixed up in all this...

  8. M.R.  

    Oh, leave Robyn alone already. Don't let a caricature mislead you.

    Additional Coverage: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article359756.ece

  9. btw  

    has anyone noticed that someone is spamming bored at butler with the klan manifesto?

  10. Bored in Broadway  

    I don't understand why she plagiarized, and especially why she would plagiarize CHICK LIT of all genres...it just seems so infantile, not to mention pointless. Couldn't she come up with a best friend who lived across the street without lifting someone else's exact words? Lots of people had friends who lived across the street. What? Did she expect not to be caught, especially since the books appeal to the same kind of reader...it's inevitable that some people would have read both!

    • MAT  

      I mean I've always thought of plagiarism as something of a pathology (which would explain the phenemonon that many plagiarizers are repeat offenders). OF COURSE you're gonna get caught, any idiot knows that; and some very, very smart people have plagiarized. And I moreover don't think the line between borrowing and plagiarism is so narrow that people plagiarize accidentally.

      And Jayson Blair graduated from Maryland. Not that it would have been relevant had he gone to Harvard.

  11. hmm  

    that's the second time i've heard someone use schadenfreude today

  12. M.R.  

    Speaking of Harvard and Plagiarism, anyone remember this?


  13. So  

    What happens in these situations? Is it as simple as taking those passages out?

    I wonder if your school can take disciplinary action in these cases.

  14. CHYES  

    Nick Sylvester, recently disgraced Village Voice writer, also went to Harvard.

  15. no, unfortunately not  

    but i highly recommend switching to firefox.

  16. hm  

    Well, if this accusations are true and played out, wouldn't Harvard kick her out? I mean it's an embarrassment to them, and it shows her lack of integrity, so wouldn't they have the right to.

    my take- she wanted to get caught. why would she bother plagerizing from something so word for word as oppose to just ideas? i'm just confused to how she thought she wouldn't get caught....

  17. fiori  

    damn man, i never understood the point of plaigarizing a novel. i nean, how can you possibly be so stupid. its not a friggin essay that only your two bit TA is gonna skim over before slapping you with an A- so she can go smoke weed with her grad student homeboys. there are gonna be a lot of people reading this ****. serves ya right, *****. dont blame you though. just another spoiled rich girl from the burbs. I should write a book about this crew of italians i used to run with in brooklyn, before my dad gave up on life and me and threw me in with my rich Columbia alumni uncle.

    • The fif.  

      This girl should take the fifth before she really steers herself into the shit. All this PR will be her undoing. "I don't know what you're talking about..."

      This whole story sounds a lot like Tobias Wolff, Old School.

      I hope she gets caught plagiarizing other chick-lit authors.

  18. brilliant PR move?  

    Honestly, doesn't this have the trappings of a well-choreographed stunt?

    This girl "accidentally" plagarizes another author (but not too much to discredit the whole novel), then appologizes, and gets a second write up in the NY Times (not to mention the bwog.)

    Then comes the James Frey effect, wherein thousands sping to buy the book of the little liar, either in support of their percieved hero, or in search of more evidence of moral decrepitude.

    Shall we expect to see Kaavya on the oprah couch soon?

    • Cynics, Inc.

      I had the same suspicion about the planned PR angle. Not to mention the girl's story that she "dashed off" the novel in a couple weeks between final exams just seems a) unbelievable (to anyone who has seriously attended college, anyway) and b) an insult to anyone who has ever sat down to write a real book. I'm glad the author she plagiarised isn't accepting the obviously insincere apology. I hope she and her attorney bring that smug little bitch to her knees...and it's probably not the first time she's been there, given her sudden overnight meteoric rise to fame (meow, hiss). (Hmm, instead of a casting couch, would that be a broken-down cot in the publisher's lounge?)

  19. i agree  

    brilliant PR move indeed. really, i don't care HOW much integrity she has....29 passages that are THAT similar? come on now.....

  20. tomas justicia

    Not to be to hard on the little liar, but what of the incredibly dumb buggers who toss a half-mil at a 17 year old girl...something is seriously f$%ked in the world of publishing. As for getting into Harvard...why would you want to do the things that acceptance at the big Hype requires??

  21. pilaigk

    Subsequent events prove that Josh's pioneering effort to expose an intellectual fraud was an excellent social service.Both India and America can do well without the guidance of budding literary aspirants like Viswanathan.

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