O'Neill moved to New York City in 2010. Upon returning to Ireland in 2011, O'Neill began her first novel Only Ever Yours, which was published in 2014. She has since won the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year at the 2014 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards; the Children's Books Ireland Eilís Dillon Award for a First Children's Book; and The Bookseller's inaugural YA Book Prize 2015. The success of her debut, originally published as a novel for young adults, led Quercus to issue a new edition in 2015 aimed at a general audience. The Guardian called O'Neill "the best YA fiction writer alive today".
Her second book, Asking For It, was a number-one bestseller in Ireland and won several awards, including being named Irish Times Book of the Month in September 2015, Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2015, the honour prize for fiction at the CBI awards 2016. and the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Honor for excellence in literature written for young adults. The New York Times called it "riveting and essential". Asking For It was one of the top ten best-selling books in Ireland in 2016.
O'Neill works as a freelance journalist for a number of Irish national newspapers and magazines, covering feminist issues, fashion and pop culture. As of 2016, she has written as a weekly columnist for the Irish Examiner. She was a contributor to I Call Myself A Feminist, a collection of essays from women under 30 explaining why they see themselves as feminists. She won the Literature Award at the Irish Tatler Women of the Year Awards 2015, Best Author at the Stellar Shine Awards 2015 and the Praeses Elite award by Trinity College Dublin.
She hosted the RTÉ2 television documentary, Asking For It?: Reality Bites, based on her second book, which aired on 1 November 2016. In the documentary O'Neill explores the issue of consent and tackling sexual assault and rape culture in Ireland.
O’Neill's third novel, Almost Love, was published in March 2018 by Riverrun. The Surface Breaks, a reimagining of The Little Mermaid, was published by Scholastic in May 2018.
Only Ever Yours (2014)
Only Ever Yours follows the story of Freida and Isabel during their final year of school. In the dystopian world of this novel, only boys are born naturally, girls are created in laboratories and are raised and educated in schools in order to conform to stereotypical standards of femininity. These girls must fight for the honor of being selected as a "companion"(wife).
Asking For It (2015)
Asking For It tells the story of Emma, an eighteen year old Leaving Cert student living in a rural Irish community. One night, at a party, Emma is raped. The novel deals with the fallout of this event as it impacts both, her family life, and relationships with her friends. O’Neill, herself, admits that Emma is a flawed, unlikable, character. She describes this character choice as a means to challenge cultural notions of the sweet innocent victim, stating that she wanted to “make the reader almost complicit because of the fact Emma is unlikeable. The reader isn’t always going to understand or condone Emma’s actions, forcing them to think deeply about what occurs in the book”
Almost Love (2018)
Almost Love is composed of two sections, "Now" and "Then", which take place in reverse chronological order. The plot of the novel revolves around Sarah, a woman in her late twenties who finds herself teaching at a prestigious Dublin school instead of pursuing her art (which was the reason she moved to Dublin). Sarah struggles with dissatisfaction towards her relationship with her boyfriend, her friends and her past. The novel reverts to Sarah’s past as we learn of her affair with Matthew, a man twenty years her senior.
The Surface Breaks (2018)
The Surface Breaks is a feminist reimagining of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. In this re-telling, the mermaid (Gaia) struggles to break free from her oppressive father in order to find her place in the world. The novel uses the classic fairy tale to deal with issues of objectification, silencing and consent.
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- Hennessy, Claire. "Witches, mermaids and masturbation: Louise O'Neill on her new novel for teenagers". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2021-02-17.