Harvard author accused of plagiarism for second time

A Harvard student's novel that was pulled from the market last week after the author acknowledged mimicking portions of another writer's work appears to contain passages copied from a second book.

A reader alerted The New York Times to at least three portions of "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" that are similar to passages in the novel "Can You Keep a Secret?" by Sophie Kinsella.

While the plots of the two books are distinct, the phrasing and structure of some passages is nearly identical, the Times reported Tuesday.

In one scene in "Can You Keep a Secret," which was published by Dial Press, the main character, Emma, comes upon two friends "in a full-scale argument about animal rights," and one says, "The mink like being made into coats."

In Kaavya Viswanathan's book, Opal encounters two girls having "a full-fledged debate over animal rights."

There are also similarities in details and descriptions. Jack, the love interest in Kinsella's novel, has a scar on his hand; so does Sean, the romantic hero in "Opal." Jack has "eyes so dark they're almost black." So does Sean.

"Can You Keep a Secret" was published in 2004, more than a year before Little, Brown signed then 17-year-old Viswanathan to a reported six-figure deal to write "Opal" and another novel.

Viswanathan did not return a call for comment Tuesday. She refused comment to the Times.

Last week, Little, Brown announced it would pull copies of "Opal" after dozens of similarities were found with two novels by Megan McCafferty.

Viswanathan acknowledged borrowing from McCafferty's work but claimed it was unintentional.

Kinsella's book was published by Dial Press, which is owned by Random House Inc., as is McCafferty's publisher, the Crown Publishing Group, the AP reports.