Kaavya Viswanathan

Innocent or Guilty?

By Helen Zhang, Fareen Kiani, and Angela Gentile

What Happened?

Kaavyana Viswanathan wrote the novel "When Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life", which was published when she was a sophomore in Harvard. It got good reviews immediately. However, a couple weeks later, the Harvard Crimson found that some passages in the book bore a startling resemblance to two novels in Megan McCafferty's books. As a result, all copies of the book were immediately destroyed and taken off the shelves. Kaavya claims she was innocent - and we agree with her. But based on the evidence presented below, make your own judgement about this case.

But...It Was An Accident

"If you know you've read a book and you know that you loved it and it was only a couple of years ago when you were in high school, you could sort of forget that these words are not yours, but they are actually the other author's" (All Things Considered 25 Apr. 2006). Kaavya claims that she "wasn't aware of how much [she] may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words" (Smith, The New York Times) and that she had read the books so many times she mixed up those words with her own.

She Didn't Mean It

She is an "immature and misguided teenager who got swept up in a race she wasn't ready for" (Strauss). This is not her fault. After all, there is a lot of pressure at Harvard because everyone is so smart, so she only wanted to do well.

She's Innocent!

Although passages were admittedly similar between Viswanathan and McCafferty's books, the words were not copied verbatim. Yes, the general ideas were the same but Kaavya did not mean to copy it. Any copying was "unintentional and unconscious" (America, The Perils of Plagiarism).



Cohen, Paula Marantz. "Creative Plagiarism." The Chronicle of Higher Education 59.09 (2012). Biography in Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

"Harvard Student Accused of Plagiarizing Novel." All Things Considered 25 Apr. 2006. Academic OneFile. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Strauss, Gary. "How 'Opal Mehta' got shelved." USA Today 8 May 2006: 01D. Biography in Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

"The perils of plagiarism." America 22 May 2006: 4. Biography in Context. Web. 24 Dec. 2013.

"Opal Mehta." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 May 2009. Web. 24 Dec. 2013.

Plagiarism. By David Karp. YouTube. YouTube, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2013.