A Harvard undergraduate who signed a book deal for reportedly $500,000 while still a freshman is facing allegations that portions of her newly published first novel closely resemble parts of a coming-of-age novel published by a New Jersey writer in 2001.
Kaavya Viswanathan's ''How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" contains more than a half-dozen passages in which the language closely echoes ''Sloppy Firsts," published by a division of Random House Inc., including one 14-word sequence that appears in both books. Late last week, Random House sent a letter raising concerns about the similarities to lawyers for Little, Brown and Co., the publishers of ''Opal Mehta," a spokesman for Random House said yesterday.
A Sampling of "Coincidences":
‘YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE’
From page 6 of McCafferty’s first novel: “Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart. Guess which one I got. You’ll see where it’s gotten me.”
From page 39 of Viswanathan’s novel: “Moneypenny was the brainy female character. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty. I had long resigned myself to category one, and as long as it got me to Harvard, I was happy. Except, it hadn’t gotten me to Harvard. Clearly, it was time to switch to category two.”
‘I NEEDED IN A BEST FRIEND’
From page 7 of McCafferty’s first novel: “Bridget is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend. But that was before Bridget’s braces came off and her boyfriend Burke got on, before Hope and I met in our seventh-grade honors classes.
From page 14 of Viswanathan’s novel: “Priscilla was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend. We had first bonded over our mutual fascination with the abacus in a playgroup for gifted kids. But that was before freshman year, when Priscilla’s glasses came off, and the first in a long string of boyfriends got on.”
From page 23 of McCafferty’s first novel: “He’s got dusty reddish dreads that a girl could never run her hands through. His eyes are always half-shut. His lips are usually curled in a semi-smile, like he’s in on a big joke that’s being played on you but you don’t know it yet.”
From page 48 of Viswanathan’s novel: “He had too-long shaggy brown hair that fell into his eyes, which were always half shut. His mouth was always curled into a half smile, like he knew about some big joke that was about to be played on you.”