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Friday, April 28, 2006

How Opal Mehta Got Reviewed

By now, we've all heard of the fate of Ms Vishwanathan. But, one wondered, how was her book received when first published? Was any reviewer perceptive enough to even mention that the book seemed similar to others in the genre? Here's a round-up of sorts.

In USA Today, Carol Memmott called it "a hysterically funny train wreck of a story littered with mean girls, drunken parties, bad boys and enough chandelier earrings to light up the Harvard lawn…you won't read a sweeter, funnier, more charming book this year." Sawnet's Sumita Sheth, though not entirely appreciative in her appraisal, said: "It may all be a little creepy and sad, but it is also funny. And funny is what Kaavya writes pretty well….This is a great first effort for such a young author." A quite forgiving Tracy McLeod wrote in Marie Claire that it "may not be the most sophisticated of reads, but it's a fun debut from an author who is still only 18 years old." Debra Pickett of the Chicago Sun Times went a step further by saying: "While some of Viswanathan's prose is unimaginative...the book's fresh and witty premise rescues it from getting mired in typical nerd-to-cool-girl cliches….she has made a strong start on what promises to be a long and brilliant career."

Thankfully, Thomas McGonigle got it right in the LA Times: "Readers, parents and kids: Beware." And a cheeky sentence in The Independent termed it "a shockingly cheerful teen caper."

Staggeringly enough, prefacing an interview with the author in the Hindu Literary Review, Sarmishta Ramesh said, “The book has received rave reviews from leading publications like the New York Times, the Chicago Sun, the Boston Globe, the LA Times and every other publishing house across the country.” She went on to call it a “funny” and “fast moving” drama.

Finally and alarmingly, the Boston Herald carried an AP report quoting, of all people, Amitav Ghosh: "No matter how old, Viswanathan’s success is no mistake, says Amitav Ghosh, a visiting professor who teaches creative writing at Harvard and didn’t see his first book in print until he was 30. 'She has astonishing poise,' said Ghosh. 'At Harvard, there are many, many very fine writers. Her writing has a kind of a pitch-perfect novelist’s diction. At her age, that is very unusual.' "

So there you have it. The professional reviewers have spoken.


  • Could it be because they hadn't read McCafferty's books? Or - shock, horror - hadn't even heard of the author?

    But hey, I hadn't heard of a few poets fmro that top 10 list, so likewise I'm not too sure how big McCafferty is in the (Chick)Lit world.

    By Blogger shrik, at 5:10 PM  

  • Mightn't it be possible that she had really done this unconsciously? It would be quite a foolish thing to do, otherwise... Just wondering.

    By Blogger Ananya B, at 3:15 AM  

  • I'm not a hotshot reviewer, but I was one of few who gave "Opal Mehta" a bad review on Amazon before the scandal broke. I even suggested that she might have plagiarized (though not from Megan McCafferty). Other reviewers responded by saying the book might have been chock full of stereotypes, cliches and "derivative" but it was still a wonderful book.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:28 AM  

  • Yeah, I'm one of the reviewers whose review you quote above, but we all had instructions, "she's a young kid so give her a break". Teaches me never to listen to "suggestions" from above, doesnt it? :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:23 AM  

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