A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

Cole, Tillie. A Thousand Boy Kisses. CreateSpace, 2022. 352 pp. ISBN 978-1530496198 $11.99


Thor-lookalike Rune moves from Olso to Georgia (USA) at age 5 and instantly falls in love with Poppy, the winsome, green-eyed girl next door. A handshake seals their promise to be besties forever. When her beloved mamaw passes away a few years later, she leaves Poppy with a glass jar of paper hearts, instructing her EIGHT-YEAR-OLD grand-daughter to record 1,000 kisses from her soulmate. By high school, Rune and Poppy are more than friends, with a number of kisses that matter memorialized in the jar. Not all the kisses make it, only the ones that Poppy deems make her heart feel like bursting. At fifteen, Rune’s father is relocated back to Oslo for a few years and while heartbreaking, he and Poppy consummate their love and promise to keep in touch (and promise to save their lips only for one another). And then, after two months of talking every day, she ghosts him after two months. It’s a surly, smoking, and smoking-hot Rune that returns two years later. Still dressing all in black, his insides seem to match the tough bad-boy exterior he projects. Their confrontation–and reconciliation–is inevitable.

The actions of the characters are generally appropriate to age group. For example, Rune screaming at his parents that he hates them. The complex emotions just aren’t there, though, and the writing is sappy, the dialogue repetitive and wise beyond years, the emotional manipulation and possessiveness and slut-shaming were cringy, and the epilogue very unsatisfying and unbelievable. Poppy’s love for music and Rune’s skill and love for photography with an old-fashioned point and shoot SLR camera adds some depth. Some plot points, like moving prom up by a few weeks or getting permission to sit in on a music dress rehearsal, feel a little far-fetched. The author hits you over the head with symbolism instead of allowing for nuance (how many times can one person reference Footprints–with no attribution! However, I was raised Roman Catholic, and as a teenager, had Margaret Fishback Powers’ allegorical poem posted on my bedroom door). Interestingly, A Thousand Boy Kisses is a book filled with faith that allows for teenage sex without guilt or repercussion (unless the whole getting cancer thing is implied as punishment for underage sex).

This book’s cover kept popping up on the romance group I just joined on Facebook, to rave reviews. I read it fairly quickly through Kindle Unlimited, laughed and nodded at the one-star reviews on GoodReads, and settled somewhere in the middle. I was a huge fan of Lurlene McDaniel tearjerkers in my teenage years (and early in my career as a young adult librarian, until they veered too Christian and too formulaic). Sometimes, though, you just need a good cry, and a sorrowful book can help get you there.

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