The plagiarism scandal over Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan’s novel “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” has become so radioactive that it has all but killed a feature adaptation at DreamWorks.
It’s also prompted publisher Little, Brown and Company, which had signed Viswanathan to a reported six-figure deal, to notify retail and wholesale outlets on Thursday to stop selling copies of the book and to return unsold copies to the publisher.
For DreamWorks, the scandal arrived just after the studio received a first draft of a screenplay by Kara Holden. Once Viswanathan’s school newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, revealed at least 40 glaring similarities between “Opal” and the Megan McCafferty novels “Sloppy Firsts” and “Second Helpings,” the “Opal” project joined Warner Bros.’ adaptation of James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” on the movie-adaptation trash heap. While the studio initially contemplated acquiring McCafferty’s book rights, it’s believed that DreamWorks will now likely cut its losses.
The development followed a Viswanathan interview with “Today’s” Katie Couric in which the teen author denied deliberately cribbing passages. McCafferty and her publishers were unimpressed, and Thursday, lawyers from Little, Brown and Crown parent company Random House were working to negotiate a solution that would head off a lawsuit.
In a statement issued soon after Little, Brown’s decision to pull the books, Crown said it was “pleased that this matter has been resolved in an appropriate and timely fashion” and also praised McCafferty for “her grace under pressure throughout this ordeal.” McCafferty, in a statement released by Crown, said she was “not seeking restitution in any form” and hoped to put the affair behind her.
A week before the scandal broke, McCafferty had just released “Charmed Thirds,” and the author has begun turning down appearances on programs like “Today” because questioners want to dwell on the scandal and not her new tome.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)