Shadow of the Batgirl

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Shadow of the Batgirl Book Poster Image
Teen assassin atones in sensitive tale of redemption.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Offers opportunity to discuss importance of second chances, that people should be able to atone for mistakes they've made.

Positive Messages

People can change for the better and atone for past mistakes. Violence is a choice. People can choose other solutions to their problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As a child, Cassandra Cain was trained to be an assassin. When she rebels against her evil father, she doesn't believe she can be a good person. Thanks to new friends she makes at the library, she grows confident that she can control her emotions, not harm others.


Cassandra trained as an assassin but now wants to curb her violent behavior. Book features many martial arts fight scenes, but they're generally bloodless, brief. She accidentally breaks a friend's shoulder.


Cassandra and Erik flirt, kiss, hold hands.


One or two instances of "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shadow of the Batgirl is a graphic novel about the early years of Cassandra Cain, who becomes the masked vigilante Batgirl. Asian and mixed-race characters are well represented. Swearing ("s--t") is infrequent. There are scenes of violent martial arts, but little bloodshed. Cassandra and Erik kiss chastely.

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What's the story?

As SHADOW OF THE BATGIRL begins, young teen Cassandra Cain is living on the streets, trying to escape the clutches of her villainous father. She makes friends with a restaurant owner, a librarian, and a high school student, but she's skittish about human contact. She's afraid of unleashing the violence within herself and killing someone. While her father closes in on the people she cares about, Cassandra waits for the costumed hero Batgirl to return to Gotham after years away. But what if Cassandra has to break her vow and save her friends herself?

Is it any good?

Some superheroes have a hidden softer side, and this tenderhearted origin story values character growth above martial arts fistfights. In Shadow of the Batgirl, Cassandra may seem waif-like, but writer Sarah Kuhn and illustrator Nicole Goux imbue her with an iron will, so that she struggles never to resort to the kind of violence her father trained her to wield. Goux's art is expressive and clear in its storytelling. The narrative is more contemplative than action-packed, which may appeal to readers weary of superhero slugfests. Filled with strong female characters -- some of Asian descent -- the book offers an intriguing alternative to the usual male-dominated comics story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Shadow of the Batgirl uses the conventions of superhero stories to tell its story of teen self-discovery. Why are superheroes so popular in various media? What do they offer readers that other genres do not?

  • Cassandra expects other people to treat her badly. How can teens feel more positive about themselves and the people around them? What causes someone to be mistrustful?

  • What does it mean to be a hero? Are there different types?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love superhero graphic novels

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