Childhood Sweetheart
September 10, 2022
Book Review

Childhood Sweetheart

reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo



“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”

Roald Dahl

Eleven Years ago a tragedy occurred that would change the course of so many lives. In this atmospheric and beautifully written novel, Wendy Clarke has described the pure love of childhood friends, a horrible tragedy, and the endurance of one woman who has been dealt a terrible fate. Ailsa, a single mother living with her autistic son, has not seen her best friend Jonah in eleven years. She thought they would always be friends but then tragedy happened and he disappeared. 

Ailsa and her son, Kyle now live in a cabin on a Scottish island, where Jonah and his brother, Callum lived while growing up. Moira, their mother, has taken care of Ailsa and her son Kyle, while Ailsa helps her to run the vacation homes. They are very close, and despite Kyle’s issues, their lives are peaceful and happy. Until Moira decides she would like to invite Jonah back to celebrate her birthday. Unfortunately, the Jonah that comes back is not the same one that left 11 years ago. They are strangers and Ailsa cannot figure out what has changed about him. But he is not the same person she knew and loved. 

There is a big secret that Jonah is keeping from Ailsa and Moira, and sometimes secrets bring you closer together when they are revealed. Not in this book. These secrets have been kept for such a long time that they break the fragile exterior that kept this family together. What happens when Moira and Ailsa find out what Jonah has been hiding. 

Childhood Sweetheart is so much more than the title, as Jonah and Ailsa never become “sweethearts” because of a secret he told her so many years ago. Told in dual timelines and from dual points of view; Ailsa and Jonah, this amazing book is rich in atmosphere and tension, drawing me in from the very first chapter. I knew there were secrets, and I was ready and invested in learning what they might be. When Jonah arrives from the mainland, the reader has already had a visit inside his psyche and knows he is not quite “right”. We can feel the tension flow throughout the book, as Moira and Ailsa expect him to be one way, but he does not live up to those expectations. As secrets from the past come to light, we can see the emotional pain Jonah is in and the enormous secret he has been carrying all of these years. When Kyle’s paternity becomes known, it changes the course of their lives as it forces Jonah to show them who he really is. 

Clarke has done a fantastic breaking down the relationship between two brothers who could not be more different. She has created characters that had a lot of depth, even the town’s outcast, Seth. The plot leaves you breathless and is well executed. Even though we are given tiny plot twists along the way, the ending is shocking. There is also a unique and thrilling plot that is executed marvelously. The conclusion really floored me as there were some amazing twists that led to a shocking ending. 

Childhood Sweetheart is available at:


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