Books

Okay Days by Jenny Mustard review: Romance as though Sally Rooney didn't happen

Social media influencer Jenny Mustard's debut novel ignores developments in romantic fiction

Okay days book cover

Okay Days is the debut novel by social media influencer Jenny Mustard. The story of Sam and Luc, the novel is a fairly standard plot that follows the ups and downs of a conventional heterosexual relationship between a Swedish émigré and a retail worker. They do cutesy romance novel things like having in-jokes about Bruce Willis films and, at one point, they attempt to rescue an injured bird.

It would be remiss of me to suggest that any part of Okay Days is good, mainly because it just feels so out of step with contemporary literary romance. It genuinely exists in a parallel universe where the last decade did not happen. The numerous ways by which Taylor Jenkins Reid and Sally Rooney have innovated the literary romance genre are largely ignored. Instead, Mustard is more in debt to the obvious plotting and plain prose of Nicholas Sparks. 

Of course, the actual critical reception of this novel doesn’t make any difference. It exists almost wholly as an offshoot of the Jenny Mustard brand, another piece of merch with her name slapped on it. And how incredibly insulting to the many, brilliant romance writers out there who must watch their genre becoming constantly infiltrated by these tyros. As if they don’t already have to regularly deal with being seen as a “lesser” genre or being at the short end of misogyny from male readers. What a truly bleak set of affairs.

Barry Pierce is a journalist and cultural commentator

Okay Days by Jenny Mustard book cover

Okay Days by Jenny Mustard is out now (Sceptre, £16.99).You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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