Poor Kaavya Viswanathan. Plagiarism, plagiarism everywhere
and not a lawyer in sight.
If you haven't heard, Kaavya is the Harvard undergrad who signed a sweet two-book deal with Little, Brown and Company, and now she is caught in a legal / PR shitstorm after being accused of plagiarism in her first book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life. You can look at sample passages from her book and two books by Megan McCafferty–there is definitely theft there. The Wikipedia article on Kaavya examines several other accusations of plagiariasm, from four additional books, including Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Megan Cabot's The Princess Diaries. That's a total of six books she would have plagiarised from.
That sounds like a lot of work. I can't imagine going through all the trouble to lift text from so many different sources. It all seems very weird to me. Did Saavya plagiarize? Yes. Are all of the alleged passages plagiarism? Probably not. In some instances language is obviously lifted, entire sentences. But at some point I start to wonder how prevalent the tropes in chick-lit and YA girls' books are, and at what point a snatch of pre-teen dialogue becomes a trope, a convention, and not someone's original creation.