The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

New step-sister Amanda wants to teach David and his younger siblings all about practicing magic, but when they learn that their house was once haunted by a poltergeist, no one can tell what’s made up and what’s real.

The Headless Cupid is the second of the three YA books I’m reading for the Banned Books Challenge. I was only familiar with Snyder’s The Egypt Game, which I remember as being cryptically creepy, the perfect read for a curious fourth-grader like myself.

The Headless Cupid is one of those great YA novels that deals with big issues in an entertaining way. The book is nominally about the supernatural, but really it’s about the challenges facing a blended family, and the ways in which pre-adolescents can react badly or well to change. There’s no big “sit down, family, and let’s learn this lesson moment,” and I think that’s a strength of the book.

I imagine that this book gets banned because of the supernatural elements. Most of the witchcraft in the book is made up by Amanda to get attention and act out against her mother, but there is one activity that goes unexplained. Well, to that I say that Shakespeare’s The Tempest ought to be banned, then, by those criteria. Magic, the supernatural, and even the occult are great tools for the fiction writer seeking to create an imaginative experience for the reader. You don’t have to believe that ghosts exist to enjoy a story that features them. I know that some argue that the danger with the occult isn’t that it doesn’t exist, but that it does, so there’s nothing harmless about playing around with it. I’ve even heard people argue that you could accidentally summon a demon that will then possess you, so you should stay away from anything that could possibly make that happen. Bosh and rubbish, says the true believer. Reading Harry Potter is not going to bring down the demons. This is poor theology that ascribes more power to fictional characters than to the God of the universe.

Book banning really makes me mad, can you tell?

4 thoughts on “The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder”

  1. I read this book numerous times in 6th grade & checked it out from the school library until I reached the limit of check outs. I didn’t know until many years later that so many parents had a problem with this book. I think it seems really unfair & it’s coming from someone who was absolutely captivated, intrigued & inspired by it. It was in the mid-80’s when I read it, but I guess the hate for it happened later. The book is well written & there’s nothing in it to warrant it being banned.

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