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WORD: Viswanathan in doghouse as Little, Brown and Co. dumps plagiarized novel

Little, Brown and Co. is pulling teen "author" Kaavya Viswanathan’s debut novel from bookshelves after she admitted stealing material from veteran Megan McCafferty’s previously published books. How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life had sold for six figures when the publisher signed Viswanathan to a two-book deal.

Viswanathan acknowledged that she stole many passages in her young adult novel from McCafferty, whose titles include Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. Viswanathan apologized to McCafferty for "unintentionally" lifting passages from books she’d read while in high school, and promised to change her debut novel in future editions.

But that wasn’t enough for McCafferty’s publisher, The Crown Publishing Group, which called the plagiarism "literary identity theft" and hinted at a possible lawsuit. That prompted Little, Brown -- which initially didn’t plan on pulling How Opal Mehta Got Kissed -- to dump the book.

Crown said in a press release that it was "pleased that this matter has been resolved in an appropriate and timely fashion" and added that McCafferty would not "seek restitution in any form."

Little, Brown officials did not say whether they would publish the second novel in Viswanathan’s two-book deal. Viswanathan, whose book was about a high school overachiever rejected by Harvard because she had no social life, is now a sophomore at the university.

This is the third major publishing scandal this year involving author credibility. Viswanathan joins James Frey and JT Leroy in the literary doghouse but, unlike the two, she has little writing ability to fall back on.

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