Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why Summary and Analysis of “Cassette 4: Side A,” “Cassette 4: Side B,” “Cassette 5: Side A,” and “Cassette 5: Side B”


Cassette 4: Side A

Clay runs back to Rosie’s and struggles to slow his heart rate and his mind before entering the diner. He sits at the counter and before long his mother comes and sits next to him. She has the tapes with her, and asks where Clay’s study partner is. Clay lies and says his friend is in the bathroom, a lie his mother catches him in. Clay’s mother doesn’t confront him about his lies though, and leaves him in Rosie’s with the tapes.

Zach Dempsey is the next one on Hannah’s list. He was at Rosie’s on Valentine’s Day when Marcus sexually assaulted Hannah, and tried to talk to Hannah once Marcus left. But, in the midst of an emotional breakdown, Hannah was in no mood to talk. She ignored Zach, thus unwittingly embarrassing him in front of his friends.

Before Clay can hear what Zach did to end up on Hannah’s list, Tony appears next to him and hits the pause button on the Walkman. Despite the fact that Clay stole his Walkman, Tony doesn’t look angry or upset, but rather worried and concerned for Clay. Clay lies to Tony and says that he asked to borrow the Walkman, and Tony must have forgotten. Surprisingly, Tony accepts Clay’s lie and tells him to take as much time as he needs with the Walkman. Tony goes and sits at a different booth.

To take revenge against Hannah, Zach stole the encouragement notes Hannah received from her peers in their Peer Communications class. Hannah discovered that Zach was stealing her notes when she got a new haircut and received no compliments in her Peer Communications encouragement bag. She set a trap for Zach, and when he fell into it she confronted him at school. Zach walked away and gave her no explanation for his actions, causing Hannah to cry and make a scene in the middle of the school hallways.

For Hannah, Zach’s theft of her encouragement notes was particularly painful because those notes were one of her few remaining sources of hope. She had distrustful relationships with her peers, and her relationship with her parents was also somewhat strained. Those notes were helping her keep afloat. Without them, she spiraled, and began to consider suicide seriously. The day following her confrontation with Zach, she anonymously introduced the topic of suicide to the Peer Communications class discussion. The other students in the class had negative, judgmental reactions to suicide, which further alienated Hannah. It seemed as if nothing would go her way.

Cassette 4: Side B

Hannah begins her eighth story by asking her listeners if they would want to hear other people’s thoughts. She runs through the pros and cons of being able to read minds, and compares the mind’s stream-of-consciousness format to poetry. Hannah hated poetry until someone showed her how to appreciate it and the value of writing it. Soon, the highlight of Hannah’s day became the moment she could go to Monet’s and write poems in her notebook. Poetry became a form of therapy for her, and in some ways her tapes are a type of poetic therapy.

As he listens to Hannah, Clay watches Tony exit Rosie’s and get into his car. Clay wonders why Tony didn’t say goodbye, and is puzzled again when Tony just sits in his car instead of driving off. With Tony’s headlights off, the only light coming through Rosie’s front window is the neon sign of the movie theater. Seeing the sign makes Clay think about the summer he and Hannah worked there together. When the pair were alone, it was easy for Clay to talk to Hannah, but when other people came he grew shy and distant again. Now, Clay realizes he kept his distance from Hannah while around others because of her reputation. He hates himself because if he had told Hannah how he really felt, without worrying about other’s opinions, she might still be alive.

Hannah decided to join a poetry class after seeing an advertisement about a poetry circle geared towards using poetry to love oneself. The class was a bust, as most of the participants wrote angry poems about death, men, and the destruction of the earth. For Hannah, the only positive takeaway from the course was meeting Ryan Shaver, the editor of their school’s Lost-N-Found Gazette. The Gazette was a collection of abandoned writing, drawings, notes, and more that Ryan found lying around school and published. No one besides him knew the authors of the works he published.

Every week after their poetry group, Hannah and Ryan stayed behind and talked about poetry, even sharing some of their own poems with one another. One time, in a move of absolute trust, they exchanged their entire poetry notebooks. Ryan’s poems blew Hannah away because they were deep and complex. One of Hannah’s poems transfixed Ryan as well. After asking Hannah about the meaning of the poem, Ryan stole it and published it anonymously in the Gazette without her consent. The poem became a sensation at their school. Everyone, students and teachers included, analyzed the poem, made parodies of it, etc. Even Mr. Porter, Clay and Hannah’s English teacher and Hannah’s guidance counselor, incorporated the poem into his poetry lesson plan one week.

Despite the fact that submissions were supposed to remain anonymous, Ryan told some people that Hannah wrote the poem. When students confronted Hannah and she denied writing the poem, they began to goad and tease her. They wrote parodies of the poem and recited them to Hannah, hoping to force her into confessing. This further contributed to Hannah’s pain and turmoil. School had long ago stopped being a safe haven for her, and because of Tyler her home was no longer secure either. Now, because of Ryan’s betrayal, theft, and exposure, even her thoughts were being offered up for ridicule. Now, because of Ryan, Hannah wasn’t safe in her own mind.

At the first mention of Ryan and the poem, Clay instantly knows what happened between Hannah and the other boy. He knows that the poem the entire school pored over and dissected for weeks, both inside and outside of class lessons, was Hannah’s poem. Clay is horrified, and feels sick when he remembers how relentless and obsessive the school was about the poem. Clay’s outward reaction is so obvious that when he tries to pay for his milkshake at Rosie’s, the cashier refuses to take Clay’s money because he can tell that Clay is experiencing something bad and wants to help in some way. Clay thanks the man, changes the tape, and leaves the diner.

Cassette 5: Side A

Outside of Rosie’s, Clay is deciding where to go now when Tony calls his name. Tony was sitting in his car, waiting for Clay to leave the diner. He tells Clay to get into the car, and to shut the door. Once Clay is sitting in his car, Tony reveals that Hannah gave him the second set of tapes, and that he has been following Clay. Clay is shocked and embarrassed, because he doesn’t know what secrets Hannah exposed about him. Tony tells Clay to calm down, and asks him which tape he’s on. Clay answers Ryan’s tape, and asks Tony why Hannah gave him the second set. Tony replies that he will answer Clay’s questions once Clay listens to the next tape because the next one is about Clay. Clay begins to cry, and Tony begins to drive them down the street. He tells Clay to stay with him while he listens to his tape. Clay hits play.

Clay’s tape starts with a reference to Romeo and Juliet. Hannah says she never explicitly said to herself that Clay was the one for her. She just always wanted to know him better because everything she heard about him was good. At first, Hannah was in disbelief because she thought it was impossible for someone to be that good. The more she watched Clay, however, the more she realized that he was a genuinely kind person. So then the question becomes, what did Clay do to end up on Hannah’s list?

The answer, Hannah reveals, is nothing at all. Clay does not belong on Hannah’s list, and is only included because his story is a necessary part to Hannah’s explanation of why she decided to commit suicide.

When Clay hears he did not contribute to Hannah’s suicide, his immediate reactions are shock and then confusion. He asks Tony why Hannah didn’t just skip him if he doesn’t belong on her list because he would have been happier never knowing the truth. Tony replies that Clay would have gone crazy if he never knew what really happened to Hannah, and Clay realizes that Tony is right.

Clay and Hannah’s story revolves around one night and one party, a party where all the secrets, people, and histories Hannah has introduced collide and tangle together. This is the night when she and Clay truly connected for the first and last time. This is also the night when Clay witnessed the car accident that not only killed a senior at their school, but also led Clay to Hannah’s old house months before her suicide.

Hannah decided to go to the party because she heard that Clay would also be there. Clay’s attendance was surprising news to everyone because Clay had a reputation as a quiet and studious guy. Once she heard Clay was going, Hannah knew she also had to go. She decided to walk to the party because it was nice out. As she walked, Hannah felt hope for the first time in months. The night felt full of possibilities.

Clay remembers feeling optimistic about this night as well. He forced himself out of the house that night because he was excited and ready for something new to happen. And even now, though he knows what happened between him and Hannah at the party, he still would have gone if given a second chance.

Unfortunately for Hannah, the hopeful atmosphere of the night was the calm before the storm. It started out well enough. She arrived at the party and almost immediately Clay came up to her. He told her that he felt as if they needed to talk, and Hannah wholeheartedly agreed. They moved into the living room and sat on one side of the couch. On the other side were Justin and Jessica, making out. Though Hannah doesn’t identify them on the tapes, Clay remembers that they were the first boy Hannah kissed and the girl who slapped her in Monet’s. Now, Clay realizes that Hannah really could never escape her past in Crestmont.

Still, despite their surroundings, Hannah and Clay connected on that couch. During their conversation that spanned over numerous topics they discovered that the same things excited them, that the same things concerned them. Clay realized that he should have faced his fears of rejection and reached out to Hannah sooner, instead of thinking that he had no chance with her. Hannah realized that she should have talked to Clay sooner as well. If she had, perhaps her mind wouldn’t have already been set on floating through high school, remaining distant from people, and eventually leaving Crestmont for good.

Eventually, Clay and Hannah decided to move because Jessica kept bumping into Hannah, perhaps on purpose. They found a quiet spot in the doorway of an empty room and stood there to talk. Despite the loneliness Hannah felt creeping back inside of her, Clay was able to make her laugh. So Hannah kissed him. They moved into the empty room, closed the door behind them, laid on the bed, and kissed some more. As they kissed, Hannah began to see in her head all the people from her list. She began to remember the lies and rumors that were spread about her, and believed that by being in the room with Clay, she was justifying those lies. She told Clay to stop, and to leave her alone. At first Clay tried to speak to her, but Hannah began to scream into a pillow, and so he left her alone in the room.

Clay blames himself for leaving Hannah alone. Earlier in the night he had apologized to her because he felt guilty that it took him so long to approach her. Now, he feels guilty again for getting scared and leaving her when she obviously needed him. However, unlike Clay, Hannah doesn’t blame him at all. She realized she pushed Clay away, both that night and later on at school, because she was done after the party. After the party, she went home and began making her list and forming the connections that compose her story. After the party, her mind was made up.

His tape over, Clay sits in Tony’s car and cries some more. He tells Tony that he always liked Hannah, but felt as if he never truly knew her, even after their conversation at the party. Now, because of the tapes, he feels as if he does know her, but it’s far too late.

Cassette 5: Side B

Tony and Clay drive through the empty streets of their town. Tony wants to know if Clay will be all right, but Clay doesn’t know the answer. Though he didn’t drive Hannah to her decision, he did leave her alone when he should have stayed and reached out to her. Clay asks Tony why Hannah gave him the second set of tapes, and Tony says he’ll tell Clay once they’ve reached the house the party was held in.

After Clay left the room, Hannah sat on the floor next to the bed and cried. Before long, the couple from the couch (who Hannah still hasn’t identified for her listeners), Justin and Jessica, stumbled into the room. Jessica was completely wasted, and Justin was relatively drunk. After kissing Jessica for a few moments, Justin realized that she was completely unresponsive. He tucked her into the bed and left the room.

Once Justin left, Hannah prepared to leave the room as well. She could see the shadow of Justin’s shoes through the cracks of the door. He was standing just outside the door to the room, posted up. As Hannah thought about what she would say to Justin when she opened the door, she saw another pair of shoes approach the door. This person, a friend of Justin’s, tried to open the door to the room. At first Justin stopped his friend and said that Jessica needed to rest. Eventually however, Justin’s friend convinced Justin to let him into the room by telling Justin to relax. Meanwhile, horrified, Hannah ran and hid in the closest. And while she hid, Justin’s friend, Bryce Walker, raped Jessica.

Though Hannah doesn’t use Bryce’s name, Clay knows it was Bryce who raped Jessica because Bryce’s signature phrase is “just relax.” He uses it on whoever he takes advantage of. At this point, Tony has pulled up in front of the party house. Clay flings open the passenger door and throws up in front of the house.

After Bryce finished raping Jessica, he left the room. Hannah waited for a few minutes, and ran out of the room. In the hallway, she saw Justin, the focus of this tape, sitting on a bed in another room. As she stared at Justin sitting in the room, Hannah felt as if they had come full circle. First, he had started the chain of events that had ruined Hannah’s life. Now, he was working on Jessica’s. Eventually, Justin turned his head and saw Hannah staring at him. To Hannah’s eyes, he looked blank, exhausted, and in pain.

Hannah explains that while the tapes should be about Bryce and not Justin, she knows that if Bryce were to receive these tapes, he would flee town instead of passing them on. She ends the tape by saying that she doesn’t blame Justin entirely for what happened to Jessica (who she still hasn’t identified). She recognizes that she and Justin share the blame for Jessica’s rape because they were both capable of stopping Bryce, but didn’t. Though Hannah was feeling depressed, alone, and powerless at the time, she acknowledges there’s no excuse for her failure to intervene.


On Cassettes 4 and 5, Hannah’s life truly begins to unravel. The events on these tapes, in conjunction with the events of previous tapes, finalize her decision to commit suicide. It is also on these tapes that Clay finally enters Hannah’s story. To his relief, Clay learns that he didn’t motivate Hannah to commit suicide like the other people of her baker’s dozen. He doesn’t belong in the group, and is only included because his story is an important link in Hannah’s overall tale. Like a tapestry, Clay’s string is interwoven with the strings of the other characters in Hannah’s life. To leave him out would create a hole in the tapestry Hannah is weaving.

If Hannah’s tale can be likened to a tapestry, the big party where she and Clay had their moment is the centerpiece design. The party is where the different histories, secrets, and relationships that Hannah has revealed over the course of her tapes finally come together. Characters that appeared in earlier tapes make reprises, with tragic results. As Hannah warned on Cassette 1, Justin appears again, this time ruining Jessica’s life instead of Hannah’s. Her and Justin’s silence during Jessica’s rape serves as a central catalyst in Hannah’s unraveling. For this reason, the party can be considered the climax of the story. It symbolizes the collection of the factors and reasons for Hannah’s suicide. It also features a plethora of the book’s themes, including the subjugation of the female body, the terrible power of gossip, and Hannah’s devotion to exposing the truth.

When Bryce rapes Jessica, he is seeking to control her body. He uses Jessica’s body without her permission for his own satisfaction. This is the epitome of subjugation. Furthermore, we witness the power and sway of gossip and reputation when listening to Hannah’s retelling of her and Clay’s moment. Clay was prevented from approaching Hannah for years because he feared her reputation, and Hannah sent Clay away because she feared being with him validated the lies people spread about her. Finally, Hannah’s determination to expose the truth no matter the consequences is proven when she reveals what happened to Jessica, thus exposing her own role in the rape. Hannah would rather implicate herself and admit to her own guilt, than lie and pretend to her peers.

Other themes present in these chapters include the themes of repercussions, parental obliviousness, and betrayal. By now, the themes of repercussions and betrayal are mainstays. Hannah references repercussions explicitly on Zach’s tape, when she explains that his seemingly minor transgression had devastating effects. Ryan exemplified the betrayal theme when he forsook Hannah’s trust in him and stole her poem for the Lost N Found Gazette. Hannah shared with Ryan a part of her that few people knew existed, and he betrayed her. Aside from the pain of betrayal, Ryan’s theft and publication of Hannah’s poem meant that Hannah was no longer safe in her own mind. Her thoughts became targets for torment and ridicule.

A theme that makes its first poignant appearance in Cassettes 4 and 5 is the theme of parental obliviousness. Before now, the ignorance of parents regarding their children’s lives was used for comedic effect. For example, it is humorous that schoolwork is the common excuse or alibi Clay and his classmates use on their parents. It seems like such a thin excuse, and yet all their parents believe it. However, the comedic aspect of parental obliviousness ends when Hannah admits that her parents know nothing about the pain and ostracism she experiences at the hands of her peers. If Hannah’s parents knew about her victimization and suicidal thoughts, would they have been able to intervene and save her before it was too late?