Young Author Faces New Copy Claims

Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard University student, poses in front of her dormitory at the university in Cambridge, Mass., Monday, April 10, 2006. AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki

A Harvard sophomore's novel, which was pulled from the market last week after the author acknowledged mimicking portions of another writer's work, appears to contain passages copied from a second author.

A reader alerted The New York Times to at least three portions of "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," by Kaavya Viswanathan, that are similar to passages in the novel "Can You Keep a Secret?," by Sophie Kinsella.

While the plots of the two books are distinct, the phrasing and structure of some passages is nearly identical, the Times reported Tuesday.

In one scene in "Can You Keep a Secret," which was published by Dial Press, the main character, Emma, comes upon two friends "in a full-scale argument about animal rights," and one says, "The mink like being made into coats."

In Viswanathan's book, Opal encounters two girls having "a full-fledged debate over animal rights."

"The foxes want to be made into scarves," one of them says.

There are also similarities in details and descriptions. Jack, the love interest in Kinsella's novel, has a scar on his hand; so does Sean, the romantic hero in "Opal." Jack has "eyes so dark they're almost black;" so does Sean.

"Can You Keep a Secret" was published in 2004, more than a year before Little, Brown signed then 17-year-old Viswanathan to a reported six-figure deal to write "Opal" and another novel.

Viswanathan did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday. She refused comment to the Times.

2Last week, Little, Brown announced it would pull copies of "Opal," which spent six weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, after dozens of similarities were found with two novels by Megan McCafferty, as CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reported.

Viswanathan acknowledged borrowing from McCafferty's work but claimed it was unintentional.

McCafferty, in a statement released by Crown, said she was "not seeking restitution in any form" and hoped to put the affair behind her.

"The past few weeks have been very difficult, and I am most grateful to my readers for offering continual support," she said. "In my career, I am, first and foremost, a writer. So I look forward to getting back to work and moving on, and hope Ms. Viswanathan can too."

Kinsella's book was published by Dial Press, which is owned by Random House. Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, did not immediately return a call Tuesday. However, he told the Times: "If this latest allegation is true, it is very disturbing, but it would be inappropriate to make any further comment until we have an opportunity to thoroughly review the matter."
  • Melissa McNamara

Comments