They Shall Not Pass by Andy Croft is a story set in and around the very real Battle of Cable Street which took place in the East End of London in 1936. Depressingly the issues, racial tension, gang crime and right-wing antagonism, are still very relevant today. The hero of the book, Sam, has to deal with all this. He also has to cope with his own more personal issues. These are also relevant to contemporary readers, if a little more extreme, he is fourteen and works 60 hours a week, he still has problems with friends, fights and girls.
The plot focuses on Sam's relationship with work-mate Alf and girlfriend Rose. Sam is Jewish, Alf Irish and Rose English. Sam and Alf fall out over Rose. Alf seems to be a simple racist, but the book shows it is never as simple as that as Alf is jealous and abused by his dad.
After a sensitively drawn build-up there is a dramatic show-down as the Battle of Cable Street rages around the characters. This isn't the last chapter however, and the conclusion stretches the story across Sam's lifetime, demonstrating the far-reaching implications of the events of his childhood.
They Shall Not Pass is in Barrington Stoke's Solo range, meaning it is incredibly easy to read, but still gripping and thought-provoking.