myrtle-of-willendorf

Myrtle of Willendorf

Rebecca O’Connell

A bright, artistic young woman comes to terms with her self-image.

Paramecia mate. That wasn’t fair. I was the only living creature on the face of the Earth who didn’t get to pair off and mate. I was below protozoa on the scale of social evolution. I was literally less romantically adept than pond scum.

College isn’t much more fun for Myrtle than high school was. At least in high school she had her weird friend Margie, who wasn’t going to win any popularity contests or beauty pageants either. Now an art student at college , Myrtle has only food and her long neck and her dancer’s body and her healthy eating habits, is no help at all. Over the course of a few painful weeks in summer, Myrtle finds a path, discovering, through her painting and a prehistoric stone figure known as the Venus of Willendorf, a new sense of self and a different kind of beauty.


  • Ages: 11 - 14
  • Grades: 6 - 9
  • Pages: 128

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Recent Reviews

This powerful first novel is well written and thought-provoking. Teens will appreciate Myrtle’s self-deprecating humor and cheer for her as she begins to realize her true strengths and like herself as she is.

—School Library Journal

A fine ear for language, sharp writing, and the ability to make readers see above, beyond, and through what’s happening on the page. ...

—Booklist

O’Connell’s dialogue and character development are both sharp as a tack, delivering plenty of laugh-aloud scenes that capture the angst of adolescence from the perspective of an intriguing and wryly introspective young woman.

—Kirkus Reviews

Like adolescence itself, the novel is by turns funny and poignant, and the potent theme of the female deity, made suitably incarnate by the character of Myrtle, puts a fresh twist on the journey of self-discovery.

—Horn Book

By turns funny and poignant, a fresh twist on the journey of self-discovery.

—Horn Book Guide

Often witty and even more often provocative, this first novel is arresting … It testifies to O’Connell’s talents that she leaves readers wanting more, not less, of her oversize heroine.

—Publishers Weekly

[T]his book is a story that will connect with female adolescents who have ever felt out of place or at odds with their peers.

—Voice of Youth Advocates

Myrtle has a wry voice, an intelligent mind, and an eye for truth.

—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

O’Connell’s work is reminiscent of that of Francesca Block. Both are outrageous and fun.

—Book Report

Honors for Myrtle of Willendorf

  • Books for the Teen Age—NYPL

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