How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and…

By the title alone I think I’m going to like this book. Little Brown & Company has offered Kaavya Viswanathan a $500,000, two book deal. The Financial Express provides the details:

YouÂ’re 17 and want to get into USÂ’ Harvard University, but first what do you do about those infernal jumping hormones that every gal goes through post-teens. Being an Indian, you donÂ’t indulge your sex-oriented daydreams (study first, pleasure later). So the next best option is to pen them to paper and get rid of the hots.

In a huge first, US born Kaavya Viswanathan did exactly that and more. Little Brown & Company, a respected 109-year-old publishing house offered Kaavya a $500,000 two-book deal with the first one to be out next spring titled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got In. Considering that first-time writers get $10,000, Kaavya sure made a killing.

Writing is also the way I get rid of my “hots.”

The New York Sun (registration required) goes into more detail:

Ms. Viswanathan began writing the novel while still at the Bergen County Academy at Hackensack. She’s the only child of her Indian-born parents, Viswanathan Rajaraman, a neurosurgeon, and Mary Sundaram, a gynecologist.

“Everybody in my family, including my parents, won science prizes,” Ms. Viswanathan said. “I was the one with the writing gene – and I’ve no idea where that came from. My parents are still in a state of shock. When I’ve gone home on some weekends, they look at me working at my computer and surely wonder, ‘Who is that strange person?’”

What I can’t help noticing is that a 17-year-old writer, seems to like writing about day-dreams and possibilities, and getting wild, whereas older writers like to focus on why Indian men (or women) suck.

“The main character is a girl of Indian descent who’s totally academically driven, and when she senses from a Harvard admissions officer that her personal life wasn’t perhaps well-rounded, Ms. Mehta goes out and does what she thinks ‘regular’ American kids do – get drunk, kiss boys, dance on the table,” Ms. Viswanathan said.

Can I get a “hell yeah?” Please, anyone? :)

Desilit Daily comments: I can’t tell if this is more likely to sell to desi high school students applying to colleges, or to the parents desperate to get them in to Harvard…

69 thoughts on “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and…

  1. Perhaps it is the over-reaching Desi syndrome.. , neurosurgeon Dad and gynocologist Mom. Its hard life to be a pimpernel.

  2. Somewhere, I read she wants to be an investment banker. Yeah, right! I can now see all my investments vanish into thin air! Not a chance!

  3. What a stupid, cheating girl. Faking talent seems to be the norm in this society. Why do we accept it?

  4. I found my way here having googled the book title, I was looking for some comparison of the “copied” material, what all the hub-bub was about.

    After having read the “plagiarized” material, I can definitely see the unconscious of a “smart girl” at work. Getting good grades in school is all about being able to spit back what you’ve learned. Having grown up at the bottom end of the top of the class, I always envied how the smartest kids could spit back everything they ever heard, but I recognized that they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. This is just the problem: school’s don’t cultivate unique creativity any more, they teach to the test, and this is the result. I can see how everything she’s ever read is muddled around in her mind, and with only 17 years of life experience to her name, she’s bound to spit out what she’s read elsewhere as if it’s her own because she’s got little else to go on.

    This is why there are no great-young novelists. Life experience gives us a story to tell, and lacking that, one uses what oneÂ’s read elsewhere, even subconsciously.

    I find no harm in finding oneÂ’s own artistic style by copying others, thatÂ’s how many learn to sing or draw or write. But you need the time and experience to recognize when youÂ’ve broken free into your own, and itÂ’s a shame that no one else could have told her this before the book was published. Everyone loves a prodigy, but some things only come with experience. If she had sat on her writing, perhaps even just thru college, she could have come out on the other side able to work thru it again with her own style and words.

  5. Did Opal get to keep the advance? If she did, was any “lesson” learned?

  6. Wasn’t there a corporate coauthor (“book packager” or whatever they’re called) which got half the advance?

  7. Although I am not a very regular reader of Novels, some of my friends told me about this book, I got it and started reading. The more I read, the more it became interesting. I finished this book in just 3 days, as I was unable to leave it without finishing. I think Kavya’s sense of humor is really good and the character she portrait is really amazing. Even though the book became controversial subject in the market, I will be looking forward for more creation from her side and frankly speaking I became a real fan of her.

  8. omg i am a desi and i sooooo totally about parents putting pressure on there kids when it comes to studies. any ways i loved and i mean loved your book. you should make a series about opal.

  9. i am a desi too. and though i ‘ve been unable to get a copy of opal mehta… from wat i’ve heard of it…it sounds good. i’ve been lately obsessed with anything relating to her news. i fully support Kaavya Viswanathan. i hope she writes again and w/o all this shit about fraud. i’m soon recieving her book so i can read it . i look forward to enjoying it very much!

  10. About 3 years ago, I was Opal Mehta, or felt like it. Thrown into a culture obsessed with sex and celebrity. I wanted to be a part of the “in” crowd. I knew many fellow untouchables who held the same passive aggressive bipolar (and in retrospect somewhat wacky) point of view: (I love you, but back away, for I am not worthy of your love). Sure, I was playing hard to get. I was very well bosomed and had numerous gentleman callers. I made so much money making men and women horny that I wanted to show others how to do what I did and be who I am. Just like Opal. Here we have a character who consciously obtains what she she has subconsciously wanted all along — the acceptance of others. This “person” is really just a toddler with a rejection complex. Her parents didn’t want her because she was a lady, or galpal, of “letters.” She couldn’t bear the burden of her own geeky outsider status, so she fictionalized herself and created a modified identity. Pleasing an entire community of neurosurgeons and gynecologists with hefty praise for her having obtained uncritical but name brand success in a field that they supposedly don’t understand: the pigtail genre. One day Opal is hopscotching around a gated community, and the next she’s desparately tapdancing for sexual attention at Hog’s and Heifers. So that’s who I also used to be. Personally, I think plagiarism should be a deportable offense. I say, strip her of whatever resident or citizenship status she has. Just let her try get adequate psychiatric help in India.

  11. I think she was alright, sure she copied the idea or some chapter, per say, but it was a good read nevertheless. she is just 17. i think she has done pretty good for herself. She studies in Harvard, and writes something that sold worldwide, got a fat deal and became famous, for wrong reasons though!

    But i am glad she wrote it and i read it.

  12. if she was so smart to get into harvard you would think that she’s smart enough not to plagiarize. and at first i was skeptical about the amount that she copied, and i thought that people were exaggerating. if you look on wikipedia it shows actual excerpts she copied and SHE CLEARLY copied it. its sad because the topic of her book seems really amusing and a good read. she doesn’t deserve the money i’m about to spend on the book because i have yet to read it, but she does deserve to face the consequences of plagiarism.

    she’s not smart enough not to plagiarize but she’s smart enough to plagiarize when she’s still a minor.

  13. heyy i think i this book was jsut amazing.. i hope to see a sequel to this .. good job Kaavya.. you know i was o engrossed in the book i didnt bother to study and was just reading the book.. You seroilsu have good writng skills man!!.. anyways a big conrats to you..

  14. Kavyaaa I Love You..and I must say This is the best book i have ever Read..Best of luck for your Future and I completely Support You..

    Regards A