3 Sentence Summary
In “A Thousand Boy Kisses,” Tillie Cole takes readers on an emotional journey with Poppy and Rune, two teenagers whose love story transcends boundaries. The book explores themes of tragedy and resilience as they navigate life’s challenges. Through heartfelt storytelling and a strong bond between the characters, Cole creates an unforgettable and heartbreaking tale.
Summary Read Time: Less than 7 minutes
Actual Book Length: 352
First Published in: 2016
Below is the detailed yet quick A Thousand Boy Kisses book summary:
The story begins with the introduction of Rune, a young boy from Norway who has just moved to Blossom Grove, Georgia due to his father’s job. He is resistant to the move, missing his home and resenting the need to speak English. However, his perspective changes when he meets Poppy Litchfield, a vivacious girl who lives next door. Poppy, with her infectious energy and adventurous spirit, quickly befriends Rune, and they form a bond that seems unbreakable.
Poppy is a vibrant character, full of life and curiosity. She introduces herself to Rune with a handshake, a gesture she insists is the polite thing to do when meeting new people. Despite Rune’s initial reluctance, he is drawn to Poppy’s charm and they quickly become inseparable. Poppy’s fascination with Rune’s Norwegian heritage, particularly the Viking lineage, adds a layer of intrigue to their friendship.
The story takes a turn when Poppy reveals to Rune that she goes on adventures. She invites Rune to join her, citing his Viking heritage as a reason he would be good at exploring and adventuring. This shared love for adventure strengthens their bond, and they make a pact to be best friends for infinity.
However, the story takes a somber turn when Poppy is taken out of school early one day. Rune watches from the school fence as Poppy is led away by her father, creating a sense of foreboding. It is revealed that Poppy’s grandmother, who she is very close to, is seriously ill and wants to see Poppy.
Poppy’s grandmother, who she affectionately calls Mamaw, is a significant figure in her life. Mamaw is a woman full of wisdom and love, who shares a special bond with Poppy. She is the one who instills in Poppy a love for history and adventure. However, Mamaw’s health is deteriorating, and she prepares Poppy for her impending death, explaining it as her going on a journey that Poppy cannot yet follow.
In a heart-wrenching scene, Mamaw gives Poppy a new adventure to embark on. She presents Poppy with a jar filled with pink paper hearts, a symbol of the love she shared with her late husband, Poppy’s grandfather. Mamaw’s favorite memories were the kisses she received from her husband, and she encourages Poppy to create similar memories.
After turning 17, Poppy returns to Blossom Grove, Georgia, after a two-year absence. She is shocked to learn that Rune, her childhood best friend and first love, is also returning to their hometown. The news sends Poppy into a whirlwind of emotions, as she grapples with the reality of seeing Rune again after their abrupt separation.
Poppy’s return to school is marked by a sense of isolation. She is no longer the popular girl she once was when she was with Rune. Her only friends are Jorie and Ruby, who stand by her side when Avery, a popular girl at school, taunts her about Rune’s return. Poppy’s heart aches at the thought of seeing Rune again, but she is determined to keep her distance.
The story takes a dramatic turn when Rune finally arrives. Poppy watches from a distance as Rune, now a rebellious teenager, returns to his old home. He is no longer the boy she once knew. Rune is now a smoker, a habit they had both promised never to pick up, and he has a strained relationship with his father. Poppy is heartbroken to see the changes in Rune, and she mourns the loss of their once beautiful relationship.
Despite the changes in Rune, Poppy can’t help but feel a deep connection to him. She watches him from her father’s office window, observing his interactions with his old friends. She is hurt when she sees Avery, the popular girl from school, hugging Rune. Despite the pain, Poppy can’t help but feel a glimmer of hope when she notices that Rune doesn’t hug Avery back.
Rune and Poppy’s reunion is a mixture of awkwardness and familiarity. After two years of separation, they first encounter each other’s families. Poppy meets Rune’s family, which brings back memories of their shared past.
Their first direct interaction happens in the blossom grove, a place that holds significant memories for both of them. Poppy playfully teases Rune about being a “real-life Viking” and they agree to watch the sunrise together.
Poppy reveals to Rune that she has been diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin lymphoma and that it is terminal after they have reconnected. She explains that she cut him off because she didn’t expect to live this long and didn’t want him to be burdened by her sickness. Rune is devastated by the news, but he chooses to stay by Poppy’s side, promising to be there for her through her illness.
Rune then asks Poppy out on a date, to which she agrees. They decide to start a new adventure together, with Rune determined to win Poppy back as the person he has become.
Poppy’s friends Savannah and Ida are surprised by her agreeing on the date given Rune’s reputation as a bad boy. Poppy, however, is excited and nervous about the prospect of reconnecting with Rune. She acknowledges that she hurt him deeply when she cut him off, and she hopes that this date might help mend their relationship.
The date begins with a tense encounter with Poppy’s father, who is wary of Rune due to his recent behavior. Despite this, Poppy and Rune manage to leave for their date, with Rune driving them to their destination. During the drive, Poppy sings along to a song on the radio, a moment that seems to soften Rune’s hardened exterior.
They arrive at a restaurant by the creek, a place that holds fond memories for both of them. Rune’s actions during the date, such as helping Poppy with her coat and choosing a table by the water, show a tender side to him that Poppy hasn’t seen in a while.
Poppy imagines a future where she and Rune are together, living in an apartment in Soho, New York. She imagines Rune pursuing his passion for photography, capturing their lives together in beautiful still images. However, she is quickly brought back to reality by the knowledge that this future can never be.
Despite the heartache, Poppy and Rune manage to enjoy their date. They hold hands and share intimate moments, reminding them of the deep love they once shared. The date ends with Rune expressing his concern for Poppy’s health, showing that despite everything, he still cares deeply for her.
Part 4 – How Does A Thousand Boy Kisses End?
The story takes a heart-wrenching turn. Rune’s worst fears are realized when Poppy’s health takes a sudden and drastic turn for the worse. Poppy’s strength wanes, and she collapses in Rune’s arms on their way home from school. Rune’s quick thinking and swift action get her the medical attention she needs, but the situation is dire. Poppy is fighting an infection, and her weakened immune system is struggling to cope.
Poppy is put into a medically induced coma to help her body fight the infection. Rune stays by her side, offering comfort and reassurances, even as his own heart is breaking. He promises her that he will be there when she wakes up, a promise he intends to keep no matter what. Poppy’s family, including her sisters Ida and Savannah, are also there, their shared grief a poignant backdrop to the unfolding crisis.
Poppy’s father, Mr. Litchfield, has a heart-to-heart conversation with Rune. He admits that he initially disapproved of Rune due to his rebellious behavior. However, he acknowledges that Rune’s love for Poppy and his efforts to make her dreams come true have changed his mind. He gives Rune his blessing, expressing his belief that Rune’s presence will give Poppy the strength to fight her illness.
Rune gets overwhelmed by Mr. Litchfield’s words and the weight of the situation. He is consumed by fear and grief, but he also finds a sense of resolve. He is determined to stay by Poppy’s side and to be there for her when she wakes up. Rune knows that Poppy is a fighter, and he believes in her ability to overcome this challenge.
However, Poppy’s condition does not improve, and she passes away. Rune is devastated by her loss, and he mourns deeply. He is comforted by his father, and they share a poignant moment of grief and understanding.
Ten years later, Rune is seen in the blossom grove where he and Poppy spent many happy moments. He is filled with light as he sees Poppy appear around the corner of the grove. This moment suggests that Poppy’s spirit lives on in the grove, and in Rune’s heart. Rune has also fulfilled Poppy’s last wish of going to her senior prom. He acknowledges that life is precious and should not be wasted, a lesson he learned from Poppy.