First, one of Booksquare's excellent points:
A lot of attention has focused on Viswanathan, but recall that she’s not the sole copyright owner. 17th Street Productions/Alloy Entertainment shares that role, and, thus, shares the blame. It is the job of the Alloy staff to put together the entire package, down to editorial services. Since it’s unlikely that Viswanathan wrote without the helping hand of an experience publishing professional, it makes one wonder how much input the other copyright owner had.
Indeed. And perhaps some allowances ought to be made for Viswanathan's age (17). Sometimes even good kids do really stupid things. But why was she left without supervision? Apparently this girl's babysitters were asleep on the living room sofa while she was ustairs cutting passages out of other books and pasting them into her own. As Booksquare puts it,
Many parties had their fingers in this pie, and while Viswanathan is the public scapegoat, behind her are publishing professionals who are either complicit or ignorant — neither prospect appealing, we’re sure.
This past week all 55,000 shipped copies of the book were recalled by the publisher for pulping. I can't bring myself to feel any sympathy for Little, Brown, which--I am convinced--contracted the book primarily because of the author's age. That eye-popping $500,000 advance was all about creating a sensation. A teenage author? Half a million dollars? No, that wasn't advance money the publisher was parting with, but publicity dollars. It was a huge gamble, and LB lost their shirts. All atwitter over having installed the brilliant young author (a Harvard student!) in their stable, they neglected to read her book.
Terry Teachout hits it dead on:
Little, Brown & Co., having been stupid and tasteless enough first to sign a seventeen-year-old author to a $500,000 contract, then to publish a novel by her called How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, is richly deserving of whatever bad things happen to it as a result.