College Admission Obsession Taking Over Teen Literature

To the editors:

Re: “Soph Says She’s Sorry for Overlap,” news, April 25:

Though the passage comparisons presented in the past week’s editions of The Crimson illustrate a much more severe offense than mere setting-snatching, claims that the very premises of Viswanathan’s and Megan McCafferty’s works are suspiciously similar raise important questions about the directions that the “chick-lit” genre and the “young adult audience” are headed in.

Formerly, the presence of pre-college woes as a theme in writing for the 14-and-up set was limited to a casual inquiry: How long will it take us to drive our brand-new Jeep from Sweet Valley High School to Sweet Valley University? Other installment series feature girls who seem eternally trapped in ninth grade—there is no sense of linear time, but there are a whole lot of winter semi-formals.

The success of McCafferty’s three Jessica Darling novels has proven that not all college-bound English majors are brushing up on Chaucer the summer before they leave for school. The author was among the first to acknowledge the unprecedented level of obsession many American high school students have with the college admissions process—the flaws of which were in fact highlighted by this very accusation of plagiarism. Just as copies of how-to guides on every aspect of application season seem to fly off of Barnes and Noble shelves each fall, these works of fiction sell as spiritual companions of sorts—comprehensive accounts of day-to-day pre-college life that are more satisfying and inspiring than being bluntly told to study for your SAT-IIs and get going on that cure for cancer (or, novel, as the case may be).


New York, N.Y.

April 29, 2006