Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why Quotes and Analysis

And in the middle of the room, one desk to the left, will be the desk of Hannah Baker. Empty.

Clay, Prologue, p. 4

This sentence is the first indication of what Thirteen Reasons Why will be about—Hannah Baker, whose desk at school is empty for some reason. It sets the tone of the book and establishes the book’s mysterious, anxious mood.

Who would send me a shoebox full of audiotapes? No one listens to tapes anymore. Do I even have a way to play them?

Clay, "Yesterday," p. 6

This line from Clay is a very tongue-in-cheek way for Jay Asher to acknowledge the unique storytelling method he uses in Thirteen Reasons Why. In interviews, Asher discussed the question of why he decided to use audiotapes. The fact that technology changes so rapidly means that books can quickly become out-of-date. By using a form of recording that the characters in the book know is antiquated, Asher ensures that Thirteen Reasons Why stays current.

And you, lucky number thirteen, you can take the tapes straight to hell. Depending on your religion, maybe I’ll see you there.

Hannah, Cassette 1: Side A, p. 9

Hannah’s thinly veiled anger towards the thirteenth person on her list foreshadows that his or her role in her death is particularly damning. It sparks urgency in the reader to identify the last person on the tapes and figure out what they did.

Justin Foley. A senior. He was Hannah’s first kiss. But why do I know that?

Clay, Cassette 1: Side A, p. 12

For Hannah, all the stories connect to one another. The problem is that people do not notice that before it's too late. Each story affected the story after it. Each story was the reason the next story occurred albeit with another person. Nevertheless, the people in these stories never knew how much they were connected until they listened to the tapes.

I don’t slip, and I can’t help wondering, had Justin and Zach made it to Hannah’s front door, would she have fallen for Zach instead of Justin a few months later? Would Justin have been wiped out of the picture? Would the rumors never have started? Would Hannah still be alive?

Clay, Cassette 1: Side B, p. 43

As he learns more and more about the events leading up to Hannah’s death, Clay begins to question if things had to end the way they did. He considers a range of “what if” situations and scenarios, trying to see a future in which Hannah does not commit suicide. By the end of the novel however, Clay seems to reconcile himself to the reality of the situation. No matter how badly he wishes he could change the past, he cannot, and it is too late for Hannah.

I’m starting to understand. I’m starting to see what Hannah means. And that opens up a black hole in the pit of my stomach.

Clay, Cassette 1: Side B, p. 52

According to Hannah, all she wanted was for her classmates to know the “real” Hannah, and for them to understand her (212). Though it’s tragic that Hannah could not receive this understanding in life, it is poignant that her tapes garner this understanding now.

I want to push Stop on the Walkman and rewind their whole conversation. To rewind into the past and warn them. Or prevent them from even meeting. But I can’t. You can’t rewrite the past.

Clay, Cassette 2: Side A, p. 60

This quote is a prime example of the "desire to change events" motif. Clay knows the final grisly result of the various conversations and interactions Hannah has, and wishes he could turn back time and warn everyone. Unfortunately, as Clay himself acknowledges, you can’t rewrite the past.

I’m listening to someone give up. Someone I knew. Someone I liked. I’m listening. But still, I’m too late.

Clay, Cassette 3: Side B, p. 146

This is another quote that evokes the "desire to change events" motif of the book. What sets this quote apart is the sense of hopelessness, futility, and tragedy Clay’s words evoke. He always believed Hannah was out of his league, too confident and pretty for him. Now, because of the tapes, he knows that she was deeply hurting and needed a friend. He would have fulfilled that role for her, but found out far too late that Hannah was in need.

You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.

Hannah, Cassette 5: Side A, p. 201

Here Hannah speaks directly to her baker’s dozen, and cautions them to not underestimate the power and influence their words and actions have on the lives of others. They may think their individual actions are isolated and not a big deal, but as Hannah demonstrates, everything is connected and carries power.

Thank you.

Hannah, Cassette 7: Side B, p. 282

These are Hannah’s final words on her tapes. After exposing the lies and crimes of her classmates and accusing them of sharing the responsibility for her death, she thanks them for listening to the entirety of the tapes. If they reached the end, that means they adhered to her demands in cassette 1 and did not take her for granted again.