A Thousand Boy Kisses Book Review, Novel by Tillie Cole

A Thousand Boy Kisses Book Review: Synopsis

A Thousand Boy Kisses is a young adult romance by author Tillie Cole. It follows the love story of Rune Kristiansen and Poppy Litchfield, childhood best friends in the small town of Blossom Grove, Georgia. When Rune’s family moves back to their native Norway for a few years, Rune and Poppy are heartbroken to be separated. They stay in touch at first, but then seventeen-year-old Poppy inexplicably cuts Rune off without explanation.

Two years later, a brooding Rune returns to Blossom Grove, desperate to find out why Poppy abandoned their relationship. Poppy, who has always loved cherry blossoms, sunshine, and rescue animals, seems different somehow, more closed-off. As Rune tries to rebuild their relationship, he uncovers Poppy’s devastating secret that she has terminal cancer.

Rune is devastated but vows to make the most of Poppy’s remaining time, filling her days with tender romance and reminders of their enduring love, even visiting Poppy’s grandmother’s grave to relive childhood memories. As Poppy’s health declines, she makes Rune promise to move on and find happiness after she’s gone. The novel builds to an emotional conclusion as Poppy dies in Rune’s arms after a final perfect goodbye.

In tribute to Poppy’s “thousand boy kisses” jar her grandmother gave her as a child, Poppy leaves Rune his own jar of her love notes, giving Rune the strength to rebuild his life without his soulmate by his side. Their powerful love story is tragic yet hope-filled, speaking to the resiliency of the human spirit.

A Thousand Boy Kisses is a standalone young adult novel recommended for ages 14 and up. With its bittersweet storyline, it fits well in the “tearjerker romance” genre. Bestselling author Tillie Cole is known for her emotionally rich stories featuring all-consuming romances. This novel in particular highlights her talent for depicting the innocence of first love and the nostalgia of childhood connections.

A Thousand Boy Kisses Main Characters

Rune Kristiansen

A Thousand Boy Kisses Book Review - Rune Kristiansen

The male protagonist. As a teenager, Rune is forced to move from his childhood home in the small town of Blossom Grove, Georgia back to his native Norway due to his father’s job. He is devastated to leave behind his best friend and soulmate, Poppy. After two years in Norway, a brooding Rune returns to find out why Poppy mysteriously abandoned their relationship.

Poppy Litchfield

A Thousand Boy Kisses Book Review - Poppy Litchfield

The female protagonist. Poppy has always been a vibrant, smiley girl who loves animals and whimsical things like cherry blossoms. She shares an incredibly deep bond with Rune. When Rune moves back to Norway, Poppy suddenly cuts off contact without explanation. When Rune returns, he discovers she is now withdrawn and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer at only age 17.

Rune’s parents

Supporting characters. As a child, Rune resents his parents for making him move to Norway, severing his tie with Poppy. But as he gets older, Rune develops an affectionate relationship with his parents.

Poppy’s grandmother

Supporting character. Before she passes away when Poppy is very young, Poppy’s grandmother gives her a jar and asks Poppy to fill it with a thousand special “boy kisses” notes over her lifetime, representing passion and lasting love. This jar comes to symbolize Poppy and Rune’s connection.

A Thousand Boy Kisses Themes and Tropes

At its core, A Thousand Boy Kisses is a heartbreaking young adult romance that deals heavily with themes of the power of childhood and first love, coping with devastating loss and grief, and the resilience of the human spirit. Author Tillie Cole employs common coming-of-age tropes by showing the intense connection teenagers Poppy and Rune share — symbolized by the “thousand kisses” fantasy, portraying dramatic rebellion against parents, and exploring the nostalgia of small-town first loves.

Beyond this, as the book progresses to its conclusion, deeper themes emerge from Poppy’s terminal cancer diagnosis and her premature death at only seventeen. Rune must learn to grapple with losing his soulmate and the loneliness of grief, invoking the embrace of the tearjerker genre engineered to give readers an emotional catharsis. He also represents the journey to find meaning in life after losing your other half far too soon. So the novel explores profound questions about mortality, destiny, hope versus despair, the meaning of true love beyond physical life.

The book also taps into familiar tropes of the “bad boy” heartthrob — embodied by the brooding, leather jacket-clad Rune upon his return to Georgia after two years in Norway. However, refreshingly Rune’s “flaw” stems not from the stereotypical dangerous behavior, but rather from his deep heartache that makes him emotionally guarded. His loyalty and tenderness for Poppy redeem him as a romantic hero.

Finally, Cole provides some slightly unconventional perspectives about young love being powerful and validating — not trivial or fleeting. Through Poppy and Rune’s unbreakable connection, she argues that while their time was short-lived, their love brought profound meaning to life’s journey.

A Thousand Boy Kisses Writing Style

Tillie Cole has an engaging, emotionally evocative style that pulls readers deep into the minds and hearts of her protagonists. She has a gift for transporting audiences back to the intense feelings and unabashed sentimentality of first loves. Cole’s descriptive language reveals thoughts familiar to anyone who has pined for a childhood sweetheart or best friend. Phrases like “the other half of my soul” encapsulate that sense Rune and Poppy complete one another.

Interestingly, Cole provides authenticity and depth by writing half the book from Rune’s male teen perspective in first person, giving voice to his angst-riddled yearning. This insight into Rune’s inner turmoils and vulnerabilities is rare for the oft-stoic young adult male archetype. It connects the audience to Rune’s charisma and charm as much as Poppy does.

Cole’s lilting Southern dialect in Poppy’s narration also immerses readers in small-town regionalism. And she powerfully captures the tenderness and nostalgia of fleeting adolescent romance headed for tragedy, adeptly spanning a rollercoaster ride of euphoric highs, dramatic plunges, poignant joy, and crushing heartbreak. Audiences are sure to need tissues by the final chapters as Cole ties up the grief-stricken story with bittersweet hope reminiscent of beloved tearjerkers “The Fault in Our Stars” or “A Walk to Remember.”

A Thousand Boy Kisses Book Review: Final Verdict

A Thousand Boy Kisses is a gripping tearjerker certain to appeal to fans of tragic young adult romances. Author Tillie Cole successfully tugs at heartstrings with an expertly-crafted tale of first love destroyed too soon by terminal illness. She builds an emotional rollercoaster journey for protagonists Rune and Poppy, letting us fall helplessly in love with their nostalgia-soaked connection just to have it ripped cruelly away. Be prepared for weeping and soulful longing as the adolescent soulmates craft shattering goodbyes and lifelines to sustain each other in spirit.

While the brooding bad-boy and manic pixie dream girl tropes may feel superficial early on, Cole ultimately creates resonant depth as the lovers mature rapidly through mortal crisis. There are enriching takeaways here about the resilience of the human heart, the meaning of love, and hope as an antidote to life’s unspeakable tragedies. Fans of “A Walk to Remember,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” or even “Titanic” seeking sentimental catharsis will enjoy “A Thousand Boy Kisses” – as long as a box of tissues is close by. While author Tillie Cole certainly knows how to dismantle reader emotions, she also convincingly pieces them tenderly back together. This skillful storytelling makes the agony worth enduring. The novel will linger for ages in your heart.

Author Profile

Susanna Nicholson
Susanna NicholsonReader, Writer
I spend my days immersed in the world of books, finding solace in their pages. In my spare time, I transform into a critic, penning reviews that unravel the magic and mystery of each story. This passion for reading is not just a hobby; it’s a part of who I am.
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