Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Cut and Paste, or an Honest Mistake?

One of the big news stories in library world (and perhaps the rest of the world as well...I'm the first to admit I'm often a bit out of touch) is the tale of a Harvard sophomore whose recently published book is coming under fire.

Basically, Kaavya Viswanathan has been accused of copying numerous passages from Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series (see the New Books Blog for a blatant plug of this series, which I adore) in her book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.

Since the accusation, Ms. Viswanathan has apologized, saying that she read the first two books in Megan McCafferty's series (Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings) as a high school student and subconsciously internalized certain passages and McCafferty's overall writing style. I've got to say, some of the "similar" passages quoted in various newspaper articles, like this one from The Boston Globe are rather remarkably alike.

How Opal Mehta... is about a high school student who's entire life has revolved around doing everything right to get into Harvard. At her entrance interview, however, she's told that she needs to have more fun, make some friends, get some hobbies, in short -- get a life.

Megan McCafferty's books are about Jessica Darling, a high school student who gets great grades and, while she does have a life (sort of), spends a lot of time stressing out about what college to apply to and whether or not she'll get in.

While the plots of the books share some similarities, it's the language that is really the shocker. Read some of the articles (or better yet, read the books) to see the disputed passages.

I don't know whether this was an honest mistake or if Viswanathan plagiarized McCafferty on purpose. Either way, if you ever have a novel published, make good and certain that all the language is your own!

My thanks, as is often the case, to the clever folks on the YALSA-BK listserv for making me aware of this controversy!


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