- "Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo. No return engagements. No encore. And this time, absolutely no requests."
- ― Hannah Baker on the tapes
Hannah Baker is a simple girl at heart. She likes candy, hot chocolate, blue nail polish, filling out surveys, and reading and writing poetry. Deeply romantic, she wants to find love, and is exploring relationships naturally, at her own pace. She's also smart, attractive, and friendly. So what went wrong? How did her high school dreams turn into a nightmare?
That's what these tapes are all about. It's through her recordings, and Clay Jensen's reactions to them, that we get to know Hannah. We hear Hannah's description of her life at her most desperate and disturbed, which makes it easy to forget that she wasn't always this way.
By the end of the story, we can understand what happened to her, but we don't ever really know her – and that seems to be the feeling she got from everyone around her, too. We don't know what she was like before the thirteen experiences. And we certainly don't know how she might have felt about herself if she'd been able to get some help.
The summer before her freshman year, Hannah Baker moved to the town where all of her problems started. It was there that she met Kat, the girl who lived next-door, and they quickly became friends. Kat told Hannah stories about Justin Foley, a boy she had feelings for. Before school started, Kat moved away and Hannah fell in love with the boy she left behind.
A week before school began, Hannah was called to meet another student new to town, named Jessica Davis. The two of them went to the local cafe and befriended Alex Standall. Over a short period of time, they began a routine where the three of them would go to the cafe after school, talking about how their days went.
While befriending Jessica and Alex, Hannah also befriended Justin Foley. She began having a reoccurring dream where she would have her first kiss with him. Hannah started to become closer to Justin and eventually, her dream came true. A month after their first kiss, Hannah and Justin were content with their relationship— or so Hannah thought. Soon she learned that Justin himself had spread a rumor about the two of them having a sexual encounter during their first kiss. Knowing she couldn't disprove a rumor, Hannah kept quiet, earning herself a bad reputation, and thus started what she began to call "the snowball effect".
After a few weeks, Hannah, Jessica, and Alex stopped going to the cafe and their friendship died out. Soon afterwards, Hannah discovered that Alex started a list deeming which freshman girls were "hot" or "not" based on their body parts. She found that she was in the "hot" column in Best Ass in the Freshman Class, and across from her name, in the "not" column, was Jessica's name. She realized Alex had done this to anger Jessica, as this was revenge for her breaking up with him while they dated for a short period of time. Jessica confronted Hannah about the list, believing there was something between Hannah and Alex since he had put her in the "hot" column. No matter how many times Hannah told Jessica this wasn't true, Jessica was far past believing her; the rumors going around about Hannah and Justin and then the sudden arrival of the list just seemed too convenient for her. Before leaving, Jessica scratched Hannah just above the eyebrow, leaving a permanent mark there, and the gossiping about Hannah began again.
Tyler Down, a photographer for the yearbook committee, made Hannah feel unsafe at home after the rumors going around about her made her feel unsafe at school. He took pictures of her inside her room. Hannah talked to Courtney Crimsen about this and she came over to Hannah's house. They began a dirty conversation and a back rub, fully aware that Tyler was taking pictures. They drew open the curtains wider and found Tyler outside, running from them, and this stopped Tyler from taking pictures of her. All seemed well until Courtney started a dirty rumor about Hannah. After she knew Hannah heard about the rumors, Courtney asked her to give her a ride to a party, trying to keep Hannah on her good side and not in any way wanting to become her friend.
Near Valentine's Day, Hannah filled out a school survey about herself in order to find her "perfect match" based on her interests. Marcus Cooley received Hannah as his perfect match on Valentine's Day and asked her out. During their date he tried to take advantage of her but called her a tease when Hannah didn't allow him to. After he left, Zach Dempsey tried to comfort her, but Hannah didn't answer any of his questions or statements to keep herself from crying. Eventually he left and decided to get revenge on her for "rejecting" him in one of their shared classes, Peer Communications, where there was a system to give compliments or encouragements to someone anonymously: he stole Hannah's encouragements. Hannah confronted him about it, feeling as if he thought she didn't deserve any compliments or encouragements.
Hannah started taking a poetry class with a boy named Ryan Shaver, but it turned out to be awful, so she and Ryan decided to exchange poetry with each other instead. He stole one of her poems and put it in his newspaper for the school, but some of her peers figured out she wrote the poem and mocked her for it.
Hannah, upon hearing about Clay Jensen actually going to a party, attended the party. She and Clay talked for hours, connecting, and afterwards shared a kiss. During the kiss Hannah couldn't help but think of Justin and all of the others who betrayed her and she shouted at him. Clay tried to help, but she screamed at him to get out and he did; after he left she thought of all the people who caused her to be this way—and then suicide. When she was still inside the bedroom, she saw Bryce Walker rape Jessica and leave. Hannah asked for a ride home from Sheri Kurtz and during their drive Sheri crashed into a stop sign. Hannah said she had to call the police about this, but Sheri refused, thinking she'd get in trouble. Afterwards Hannah learned a car accident occurred at the site because of the missing stop sign and felt guilty for not calling the police earlier.
Hannah went over to Tony's house and gave him her blue bike, and in return she asked for ways to record her voice, wanting to make a set of tapes so people would know why she killed herself. Tony gave her a voice recorder, unknowing of what she was planning, and she started to record the tapes—she talked about the people who were key reasons of why she killed herself and wanted the tapes to be passed on to every person. If they didn't, Hannah decided to make sure someone else would have a second set of tapes to release out into the public so their stories would be known. Later, Hannah went to the after-party of Courtney's, where she and Bryce Walker were in her hot tub in their underwear. Hannah joined them. Bryce sexually touched her, and for the first and last time Hannah gave in to her bad reputation and let him.
Now knowing she wanted to kill herself, Hannah went to Mr. Porter, the school counselor, trying to give life one more chance; she recorded her whole conversation with him. She told him about how she wanted her life to end and how Bryce raped Jessica and Mr. Porter urged her to forget about it if she wouldn't press charges. She exited and Mr. Porter didn't go after her, knowing she'd kill herself. Hannah mailed the second set of tapes to Tony and the first set of tapes to Justin—then she took pills and killed herself, letting the thirteen reasons why she killed herself be aware of her story and finally start to think of the consequences of their actions. Tony was the only person who she trusted.
- "I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why."
- ― Hannah Baker introducing the tapes
Creating thirteen recordings on cassette tapes is an easy task. (We don't even know how to use cassette tapes, anyway!) Hannah's execution of the tapes is elaborately planned. She even distributes individual starred maps to her listeners, which they're supposed to follow as they listen to her recordings.
Taking all of this into consideration, we might even call Hannah manipulative. Yes, it's a harsh word, but Clay has taught us that it's okay to be angry at her, as long as we're respectful.
If we look more closely, we'll see that Hannah's angry plan doesn't do her any good either. She isn't using the tapes for self-reflection, to try to figure out how she can gain power over her surroundings. Instead, she's trying to put her listeners in her shoes – to show them how it feels to be on a list, how it feels to be accused of things and have rumors spread about them. This is an exercise in spite, and it only confirms her belief that her problems are unsolvable.
No matter how calculating she was about her plan, it's very clear from these tapes that Hannah isn't thinking straight. For example, Hannah reveals the names of some alleged criminals (Jenny Kurtz) but not others (Bryce Walker), regardless of how bad each person was to her. Also, she threatens to publicly release the tapes if her listeners don't do what she asks; but the last person on her list is Mr. Porter, who will almost certainly have to turn the tapes over to officials anyway – it's literally his job to do so.
These tapes were definitely a plan made in desperation and we can hear it both through the anger and the confusion in Hannah's words.
Towards the end, Clay Jensen describes what he saw when from those people who willingly knew that they contributed to her suicide. When the news broke that Hannah had killed herself, Clay saw that Ryan threw all of his notebooks and textbooks out of his lockers and ran out of school. Clay picked up a notebook that he threw and noticed that it was his poem notebook. Clay also describes how others reacted, some got up and walked out of class, and some began to break down, and overtime, Clay could see why they were reacting that way.
13 Stories, A Jury of 12
Although Hannah tells thirteen stories, there are only twelve people on her list (she devotes two chapters to Justin). Now here's something to think about: twelve is the number of people that make up a jury.
What a terrible jury. Most of the people on the list have either spread or believed rumors about Hannah. They didn't try to get her testimony; they didn't give her a chance to present her own evidence or cross examine the witnesses – all that good stuff we learn about on Law and Order.
Now she is paying these twelve back, but the stakes are even higher. Hannah is accusing them of what could be serious legal crimes, with serious legal penalties. For many of the people on the list, Hannah's tapes could make life seriously difficult. The only difference is that these people will get the benefit of a jury if they are prosecuted.
Hannah's character can't be viewed in a vacuum. It's actually really important to think about her in the context of her relationships with the twelve people on her list. So if you want to know more about Hannah, check out their character analyses and see how they fit into her life and death.
- “I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why.”
- "...if you've received this lovely little box, your name will pop up... I promise. Now, why would a dead girl lie? Hey! That sounds like a joke. Why would a dead girl lie? Answer: Because she can't stand up. Go ahead. Laugh. Oh, well. I thought it was funny."
- "We kissed.''
- "That... is... all... that... happened. Why, did you hear something else?"
- "And that little scar you've all seen above my eyebrow, that's the shape of Jessica's fingernail.'
- “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. Everything. . . affects everything.”
- “No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.”
- “A lot of you cared, just not enough.”
- “But you can't get away from yourself. You can't decide not to see yourself anymore. You can't decide to turn off the noise in your head.”
- “Sometimes we have thoughts that even we don't understand. Thoughts that aren't even true—that aren't really how we feel—but they're running through our heads anyway because they're interesting to think about.”
- “'If my love were an ocean,
- "There would be no more land. If my love were a desert, you would see only sand. If my love were a star-late at night, only light. And if my love could grow wings, I'd be soaring in flight.' Go ahead. Laugh. But you know you'd buy it if you saw it on a greeting card.”
- “ If you hear a song that makes you cry and you don't want to cry anymore, you don't listen to that song anymore. But you can't get away from yourself. You can't decide not to see yourself anymore. You can't decide to turn off the noise in your head.”
- “You can't go back to how things were. How you thought they were. All you really have is...now.”
- “Like driving along a bumpy road and losing control of the steering wheel, tossing you--just a tad--off the road. The wheels kick up some dirt, but you're able to pull it back. Yet no matter how hard you try to drive straight, something keeps jerking you to the side. You have so little control over anything anymore. And at some point, the struggle becomes too much--too tiring--and you consider letting go. Allowing tragedy...or whatever...to happen.”
- “When you try rescuing someone and discover they can't be reached, why would you ever throw that back in their face?''
- “I wanted people to trust me, despite anything they'd heard. And more than that, I wanted them to know me. Not the stuff they thought they knew about me. No, the real me. I wanted them to get past the rumors. To see beyond the relationships I once had, or maybe still had but that they didn't agree with.''
- "'I meet your eyes / you don't even see me / You hardly respond / when I whisper / hello. / Could be my soul mate / two kindred spirits / Maybe we're not / I guess we'll never / know/ My own mother / you carried me in you / Now you see nothing / but what I wear / People ask you / how I'm doing / You smile and nod / don't let it end / there / Put me / underneath God's sky and / know me / don't just see me with your eyes / Take away / this mask of flesh and bone and / see me / for my soul / alone'”
- “Fun drunks make a nice addition to any party. Not looking to fight. Not looking to score. Just looking to get drunk and laugh.”
- “Maybe it didn’t seem like a big deal to you Zach. But now, I hope you understand. My world was collapsing. I needed those notes. I needed any hope those notes might have offered. And you? You took that hope away. You decided I didn’t deserve to have it. ”
- “And after I dropped him off, I took the longest possible route home...I explored alleys and hidden roads I never knew existed. I discovered neighborhoods entirely new to me. And finally. . . I discovered I was sick of this town and everything in it.”
- “It's hard to be disappointed when what you expected turns out to be true.''
- “I sat. And I thought. And the more I thought, connecting the events in my life, the more my heart collapsed.”
- “Because when you're posed, you know someone's watching. You put on your very best smile. You let your sweetest personality shine.”
- “When you are done listening to all thirteen sides – because there are thirteen sides to every story – rewind the tapes, put them back in the box, and pass them on to whoever follows your little tale. And you, lucky number thirteen, you can take the tapes straight to hell. Depending on your religion, maybe I’ll see you there.”
- “I could picture life—school and everything else—continuing on without me. But I could not picture my
funeral. Not at all. Mostly because I couldn’t imagine who would attend or what they would say.”
- “We all know the sound a camera makes when it snaps a picture. Even some of the digitals do it for nostalgia’s sake.”
- “There are some sick and twisted people out there, Alex – and maybe I’m one of them – but the point is, when you hold people up for ridicule, you have to take responsibility when other people act on it.”
- “Everything, effects, everything."
- “I'm sorry.”
Personality and Traits
The Thirteen Tapes
"I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why.
- Hannah Baker introducing her set of tapes.