The lack of quotation marks and traditionally formatted dialogue made the whole thing read in a deadpan tone, emotionless and without impact. The elimination of quotation marks also made the reading of the novel confusing in places. Many times I reread parts to ascertain whether someone was speaking aloud or if I had just read the thoughts of the narrator. Call me lazy, but I don't like to try that hard to determine whether a character is speaking or not. I have always admired authors who have mastered the art of writing dialogue so that it seamlessly flows into the tale, communicating the point but without creating hiccups in the stream of words. The dialogue in Thirty Girls is so seamless I didn't even catch it! Ha! Too much of a good thing I suppose :0).
The story is split into two clearly discernible parts. One part focuses on Ugandan teenage girl, Esther, who survived the horror of being held captive by the Lord's Resistant Army, forced to endure and commit atrocities beyond comprehension. The second part is about Jane, an American journalist writing a story about the children the Lord's Resistant Army kidnaps, holds captive, and abuses in every imaginable way. The two parts never seem to come together. Esther's part of the story comes to a close with some resolution but Jane's part, less so. Unfortunately the bulk of the novel seemed to be from Jane's point of view, which I found far less engaging than Esther's. Jane's "problems" are trivial in comparison to the trials faced by African citizens and it was difficult to be patient through the parts of the tale dedicated to her. I struggled through this entire book, finishing it ONLY because it was a book club choice. I wished the whole time that I could shut it and move on to something else. Maybe something with quotation marks... ;0)