The Next Day After Mailing the Tapes
The next day, Clay struggles to enter his high school’s building. He’s already late for his first-period class because he waited for the post office to open so he could mail the tapes to Jenny. Clay is glad to be late because he doesn’t know how he’ll sit in Mr. Porter’s class without staring at Hannah’s desk for the entire period.
He walks through the deserted hallways, empty because everyone else is already in class. His footsteps sound lonely as they echo down the hall. He reaches his locker and rests his head against it. He thinks about all the times he stood at his locker and lamented that he would never get a chance with Hannah Baker. He had no idea how she truly felt about him, and allowed other people’s beliefs about her to guide his own thoughts and feelings.
His head still braced against his locker, Clay turns slightly and looks through the open doorway of Mr. Porter’s classroom. Mr. Porter’s familiar, but no longer friendly, voice seeps out of the room and into the hallway. He asks a student to deliver a paper to the front office for him. As one of Clay’s classmates volunteers to run the errand, Clay feels his knees buckle. He’s not ready to face his classmate and explain why he’s not in class.
As the classmate, a boy named Steve Oliver, exits Mr. Porter’s classroom, he nods and smiles at Clay. He doesn’t notice as another student, a girl, comes around the corner. Steve and the girl collide, and the girl apologizes, but keeps her head down. Steve looks down at her, but doesn’t say anything. He instead turns to Clay and comments on his tardiness. The girl continues to walk down the hall. She turns back once to look at them, and Clay realizes that the girl is Skye Miller.
Steve tries to strike up a conversation with Clay, but Clay brushes him off. He stares after Skye, and thinks about their encounter yesterday on the bus. He wanted to talk to her, but he let her slide out of the conversation. He realizes that over the years Skye has learned how to avoid people and how to distance herself. Now, Clay wants to call out after her, but his throat feels tight. Part of him wants to ignore Skye.
However, a stronger part of Clay realizes that Skye is walking down the same stretch of hallway that Hannah walked down two weeks ago. Hannah disappeared, never to return, but Clay can still hear Skye’s footsteps, growing fainter with every step. He begins to walk after her.
As he walks down the hallway, Clay passes Mr. Porter’s open doorway. His classmates see him walk by, but don’t say anything. Mr. Porter starts to turn around, but Clay manages to walk out of sight before his teacher can see him. In this moment, Clay feels pain, anger, sadness, pity, and surprisingly, hope. He keeps walking, and Skye’s footsteps grow louder. The closer he gets, the faster he walks, and the lighter he feels. His throat relaxes, and two steps behind her, he says Skye’s name.
With Hannah’s tapes finished and her narrative voice gone, the last chapter of Thirteen Reasons Why focuses on Clay and the important people around him, namely Skye. This last part throws into stark relief the radical transformation Clay has undergone over the course of the book.
Listening to Hannah’s story, her life at school, and her relationship to her peers made Clay realize how much importance he placed on gossip and public reputation. At first, he didn’t pursue Hannah because he believed the rumors about her and thought she was too much for him. Later on, particularly during their stint working together at the movie theater, Clay would distance himself from her when they were around other people because he feared people’s talk. Though being quiet and reserved is a part of Clay’s personality, he now knows that his reticence prevented him from helping Hannah when she needed it most. After listening to Hannah’s tapes and witnessing the huge impact he and his peers had on her life, Clay resolves to do things differently. He cannot change the past, but he can change his behavior.
This is where Skye comes in. The parallels between Hannah and Skye are uncanny. Like Hannah, Skye is a former crush of Clay’s. He liked her in eighth grade, but in recent years Skye has withdrawn from her classmates and friends. She moves through the halls of their school like a ghost, always looking down, never talking to anyone, just like Hannah. When Clay encountered her on a bus earlier in the book, Skye avoided a conversation with him similar to how Hannah would. All of this raised red flags in Clay’s mind.
So when he sees Skye walking down the same hallway Hannah disappeared down weeks prior, Clay goes after her. He refuses to repeat the mistakes he made with Hannah, and resolves to help Skye in all the ways he didn’t help Hannah. Thus, Clay fulfills Hannah’s last request. He doesn’t take her life for granted, and takes to heart the lessons she imparts on her tapes.
Clay reaching out to Skye before she can disappear creates a bittersweet yet hopeful mood for Thirteen Reasons Why’s denouement. After the tragedy and heaviness of the preceding chapters, the hopefulness of the last chapter is a welcome change. It suggests that Hannah’s death was not in vain, and that things will be different for Skye and for Clay.