Superman: Dawnbreaker

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Superman: Dawnbreaker Book Poster Image
Low-key but fun and surprising tale of teen superhero.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Examines issues of immigration, racial prejudice, unregulated scientific research. Clark also grapples with question of whether he should use his superpowers to intervene in dangerous situations.

Positive Messages

Immigrants should be treated with respect and compassion. Hiding your talents from your friends and family may be counterproductive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Clark Kent believes in truth, justice, and the American Way, as long as the American Way respects rule of law. He's devoted to his parents and is a hard worker, a stalwart friend, and the first to run to save an innocent person in a dangerous situation.


Clark tussles with various villains who try to beat him up or even shoot at him. A gang of toughs beats up an immigrant. Clark's super-breath causes an attacker's hand to freeze.


Clark and Lana enjoy a platonic, though slightly flirty, relationship. Clark has a crush on a waitress named Gloria, and they share a couple of kisses.


Stronger language than one might expect. Up to two dozen uses of "s--t," with a handful of "d--k," "a--hole," "hell," "goddamn," and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage teens seem to be drinking alcohol at a party. A supporting character injects a performance drug.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Matt de la Peña's Superman: Dawnbreaker tells a story of Clark Kent's teen years in Smallville. There's violence, though mostly bloodless. Fight scenes include characters using their fists, firearms, and other weaponry. There's more strong language than some readers might expect: "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "a--hole," and many instances of "s--t." There's mild flirting and one prolonged kiss. One party scene seems to depict underage drinking.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4 and 8-year-old Written byariadnee April 14, 2019

really heavy on the politics

I was really excited for this book. I Love superman, I love the series DC has been doing with these characters, and I had hopes.

The book starts off fine, but... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byjaila05 October 21, 2020

What's the story?

As SUPERMAN: DAWNBREAKER begins, Clark Kent is struggling with the superpowers he wants to keep hidden from his friends in Smallville. Thanks to his super-hearing, he learns that migrant workers are disappearing from town. Teamed with ace journalist Lana Lang, he begins an investigation that leads to his parents' farm. Why are trespassers interested in the Kents' old barn? Before he knows it, Clark is battling for the survival of his hometown, as well as learning the secret behind his own mysterious origins.

Is it any good?

It's tempting to make main characters too good to be true, but this surprising tale of an iconic American superhero gives Clark Kent some interestingly rough edges. He may seem like a Goody Two-Shoes for much of Superman: Dawnbreaker, but when he gets riled by injustice, watch out! Author Matt de la Peña captures the essence of the teen Superman, making his optimism and compassion understandable and exciting.

The immigration subplot is timely, if laid on a little thick. The supporting cast is varied and well-defined, and the usual villain, Lex Luthor, is a more ambiguous figure this time. A lot happens to Clark in only a few days, and there are plenty of twists and surprises in the plot. Comics fans are likely to enjoy the in-depth portraits that prose allows and will see an iconic character from a different perspective.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Superman: Dawnbreaker presents Clark Kent during his formative years. How do you define "hero"? What characteristics do heroes share?

  • Why does Clark worry about using his powers in front of witnesses? Should people with special talents be expected to help the weak and downtrodden?

  • Why is immigration such a divisive issue in this country? What kinds of rights do migrants have that protect them from injustice?

Book details

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