How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life

How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life

by Kaavya Viswanathan

Update — 5/3/06: How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got Pulled from the Shelves

It all fell apart for teenage wonder-writer Kaavya Viswanathan this past week. You may recall that her book, Opal Mehta… was the first in a two part book deal she signed with Little, Brown while a newly hatched freshman at Harvard. It turns out that the bestseller had some striking similarities to books including Sloppy Firsts, The Princess Diaries, The Oxford English Dictionary, the King James Bible, My Friend Flicka, and the Greater Los Angeles County Telephone Directory.

At first, Ms Viswanathan said the similarities were unintentional and her publisher agreed to pull the book and make some changes. When passages that were too close for comfort from three other book came to light (who plagiarizes from Salman Rushdie? That takes the kind of stones I do not have) the decision was made to just go ahead and pull the books and act like this whole thing never happened.

No word on whether Little,Brown would like to talk to Ms Viswanathan about her nearly $500,000 advance, although they did cancel the second book. (It was reportedly to be called The Old Man and the Ocean.) And although Dreamworks has backed away slowly from making Opal Mehta’s story into a movie, there may be a movie — and there certainly is a lesson — in the fast rise and dramatic fall of Kaavya Viswanathan.

Update — 4/26/06:

Well, our girl Kaavya has gotten some  publicity this week, and not the kind she was getting used to. The teenage author was busted by her own college newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, after readers noticed more than a few similarities between bestseller How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life and author Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. (And by the way, outed by your own school newspaper? That’s just harsh. I don’t recall too much about the University of Miami school paper (they didn’t run enough articles about beer, I guess) and the headlines were mostly ‘Hurricanes Chalk Up Another Win, Quarterback Celebrates from Lockup at Krome Detention.’)

Viswanathan, who has already signed a contract with Dreamworks Pictures, admits that she read and loved McCafferty’s work while in high school, and must have unintentionally borrowed the language. McCafferty’s publisher? Not buying it. Dreamworks? Not amused.

This one is far from decided. Stay tuned.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, by Kaavya Viswanathan.

The author got the contract to write this novel while a freshman at Harvard — no problem, she banged it out in her spare time. I could have done that. Work ethic is something the fictional Opal knows very well, in fact, it’s all she knows. She’s in high school, and her parents have made it their life’s work to get their beloved daughter into Harvard. At the interview, Opal is asked, so, what do you do for fun? And she’s stumped. Her parents come up with a plan complete with graphs and Opal puts down the books and picks up Vogue. Will Opal be true to herself and learn to love being a high school princess? And will she get into Harvard? This is a charming look at a young lady, and her family — who will somehow always succeed. How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life by Kaavya Viswanathan. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is How Opal Mehta got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, by Kaavya Viswanathan.

High school brain Opal has spent her life getting ready to go to Harvard — until the admissions advisor asks her what she does for fun. Opal and her devoted parents spring into action, hilariously Tivo-ing The OC for fashion tips for starters. Opal gets in with the typically poisonous mean girl crowd, and tries to balance advanced math theory with trips to the mall, and it all comes to a climax at maybe the worst party ever thrown.  It’s not the first time this story has been told, but Viswanathan creates an extended Indian family that gives it a funny and fresh new perspective. Enjoy this book then pass it to the math nerd in your life. How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life by Kaavya Viswanathan. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is How Opal Mehta got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, by Kaavya Viswanathan.

Opal Mehta has spent her life preparing for that perfect day when Harvard invites her in. To her shock, they seem more interested in her social life than her SATs — 2360 by the way. Her devoted parents come up with a plan — graphs and all — the goal: to get Opal a life. Anything for Harvard, even mini skirts and flat irons, amd memorizing which lipstick goes with which pair of 4-inch heels. It’s hard to be popular! Of course, life among the high school elite turns out to be hard for Opal to stomach, the boy she’s been crushing on turns out to be a little bit of a fascist, and her old, nerdy friends feel betrayed. Will Opal’s radical makeover be worth it? Can she pull it off? This first novel by Harvard freshman Viswanathan is a delightful mix of pop culture and Old World sensibilities. How Opal Mehta got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life by Kaavya Viswanathan. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


Buy this book from Amazon.com