How Kaavya Viswanathan got rich, got caught, and got ruined

Many of you have already picked up on the story broken by the Harvard Crimson on Sunday. It appears VERY likely that young author Kaavya Viswanathan is a cheat. Her newly released novel, part of a lucrative two-book deal, has several passages that are almost identical to a 2001 novel that examined similar adolescent themes:

A recently-published novel by Harvard undergraduate Kaavya Viswanathan ’08, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,” contains several passages that are strikingly similar to two books by Megan F. McCafferty–the 2001 novel “Sloppy Firsts” and the 2003 novel “Second Helpings.”

At one point, “Opal Mehta” contains a 14-word passage that appears verbatim in McCafferty’s book “Sloppy Firsts.”

Reached on her cell phone Saturday night, Viswanathan said, “No comment. I have no idea what you are talking about.”

McCafferty, the author of three novels and a former editor at the magazine Cosmopolitan, wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson Saturday night: “I’m already aware of this situation, and so is my publisher…” [Link]

Normally I would be skeptical until I heard more about this, but the Crimson has just broken it down to the point where you know how this is all going to end. Her literary career is over. If I were her I would think about falling back on medical school or something real quick. I was thrilled to see a teenage girl that could still write and didn’t use “u” instead of “you,” or “r” instead of “are.” My hopes for the next generation are now completely dashed. Here are just two of the numerous examples of apparent plagiarism cited by the Crimson:

From page 217 of McCafferty’s first novel: “But then he tapped me on the shoulder, and said something so random that I was afraid he was back on the junk.”

From page 142 of Viswanathan’s novel: “…he tapped me on the shoulder and said something so random I worried that he needed more expert counseling than I could provide…”

From page 237 of McCafferty’s first novel: “Finally, four major department stores and 170 specialty shops later, we were done.”

From page 51 of Viswanathan’s novel: “Five department stores, and 170 specialty shops later, I was sick of listening to her hum along to Alicia Keys……” [Link]



Reading the Crimson article inspired me to do some investigative blogging of my own and has led me to a fantastic discovery which I would like to reveal first to SM readers (an then later to the world press). Aided by SM staff I have found striking similarities between the novel “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,” and the 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail by authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. For example, if you take the name of the main character, “Opal Mehta,” and you rearrange the letters, it gives you the following phrase:



p>I think somewhere in Holy Blood, Holy Grail they mention that “a pale moth” is one of the symbols associated with the female divinity, a symbol that was suppressed in the 6th century by the papacy. On a previous post we all wondered why the title character would be named “Opal Mehta” of all things. It makes sense to me now.

Furthermore, I have reason to believe that Kaavya Viswanathan may not even be her real name. Rearranging the letters in her name gives you:


Roughly translated this seems to mean that Satan stays away from wherever the Ankh is displayed (the ankh being an ancient symbol that some believe is the precursor to the Christian cross). This again is a theme that Baigent and Leigh discuss in their non-fiction book. Before the Harvard Crimson article I would have just thought that “maybe this is all a coincidence,” and this really is just a book about a teenage girl that she created from her imagination. I am sure that you all agree in light of the evidence that I have just laid out that this is highly unlikely. This girl simply has no conscience.

See related posts: How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and…, The narcissist principle

414 thoughts on “How Kaavya Viswanathan got rich, got caught, and got ruined

  1. The book may have been officially withdrawn from all Stores, but and B&N are directing interested buyers to Resellers – available for prices upto US $ 208!!!

    Some is afterall raking in big money! Is this also part of the “package”?

  2. Well-bred south indian girl? Since when do well bred south indian girls (or any well bred girl for that matter) cheat?

  3. I introduced myself to an American scientist at a conference in Seattle in 1979. He asked me which part of India are you from,……..and I replied,…….”I am from north India”. He took less than a second to say……..”oh, my graduate students from South India tell me that ALL north Indians are ‘cheats’ and ‘thieves’…….isn’t that true?…….miss Mehta”……….

    I wish he had lived to this day to see for himself that it is actually ‘the other way around’. Thanks fellow (South) Indians for tarnishing the image, whatever little we had…….Amen

  4. My advice to Kavya: How about writing a story for yourself and not for the market. Try giving the characters names like say… Gogol Ganguly (Jhumpa Lahiri is hot).

    While some Indians in the media are trying to distill the stereotyping of Indians, there are others like Kavya who are instilling it. What does a western audience like to read, just put it in there For example: -Give the family a popular name Mehta (though she doesnt have a clue about Gujjus) -Put in words like Chicken Tikka Masala, Salwar Kameez etc, -make your hatred for you fellow Indian men apparent (yeah the west thinks its a great way for liberation of women from the hands of the evil/uncultured/uncivilised brown men who spend their life trying to get green cards). Who would you give nobel prize for liberating minds Gurinder Chadha or would it be Gandhi????? Simple choice eh

  5. Oh my Gawd – puh-leese! And that’s supposed to be ‘plagiarism’ goodness. sounds like random ly similar speech i mean come on. such common parlance. and oh like the no. was the same – so big bl**dy deal. as someone up there said – it wasn’t as if the ‘original’ was so damn original.

    people are such a bunch of bitches.

  6. I know it’s a bit late, but I got a weird idea while reading this. Maybe Megan F. McCafferty and Kaavya Viswanathan are using the same packager?

  7. give this chick a break its not liek she stole a fuckin car okk shitt for all the books in the wrold theres gunna be a day were things might soundd the same soo calm down an let it go!!!!!!!!!!

  8. hi, i think whatever happned is doubt there was same santences but it dosent mean that whole book has sold due to that 2 or three santance.many time it happned people does mistake,kaavya is the same.i thaink publisher shuld release it again with correction .thats all

  9. Kaavya Viswanathan is a cheat, a liar and a fraud. Pity that all it took was money to make her “literary” instints go. Such a crying shame for Harvard to ever have had a student like that. Kaavya-types won’t do justice to anything they do in life because all they see is money in everything and can’t be sincere even to themselves, forget their so-called art. Once a fraud, always a fraud – future employers beware!!

  10. I agree that Viswanathan may have put a bad impression on said generation, but honestly, “My hopes for the next generation are now completely dashed”? Oh, so suddenly all the weight of the world is put upon this girl who wrote a whole frikkin’ book (with an interesting plot) just because she’s intelligent enough to make it into Harvard? Gee, thanks for demeaning the rest of us.

    This guy has taken this way too far, and “SATAN AWAY ANKH VIVA” is an awful and idiotic anagram. Does he honestly think some people are going to agree that parents are seriously going to name their kid Satan Away?

    I don’t care if half of it was plagiarized – I liked the book.

  11. I am a pre teen and I just finished readeing the alleged book in question. I really enjoyed the book and decided to research Kaavya Viswanathan and any other projects the former may have concluded when I learned about this. I must admit I did rather enjoy this book and I am shocked to find out that some of the finer points of the book are actually not Viswanathan’s own thoughts but excerpts from obviously more talented authors. I feel it is just a shame because the novel did send a veryimportant message to the youth of America today. It sucks because of this situation not many libraries will stock the book and the message won’t be spread. It is also a shame because I really would have loved to see the movie but because of this Dream Works have stopped all efforts to make it. It is justa shame a book that was both enjoyable and yet subversive and a good read was plagarized.