Two weeks after his classmate Hannah Baker commits suicide, Clay Jensen, the "nice" boy who had loved her from afar, finds "a shoebox-sized package" on his porch. The box contains seven audiotapes, with each side numbered separately from one to thirteen. The tapes, created by Hannah, are to be passed on, in order, to a list of individuals whose names all appear on the recordings. Hannah promises that the tapes will explain why she took her life, and she warns that each of those who receive a tape contributed in some way to her death.
Hannah names Justin Foley, her "freshman crush," first on the tapes. She concedes that he, like most of the people named, had no idea about the significance of his actions, but in the end, everything added up to "betrayal...one of the worst feelings." Hannah had long dreamed of receiving her first kiss on a playground rocket ship, and Justin made her innocent dream come true. Sadly, he then bragged to his friends about what had happened, embellishing the details, and starting rumors having little resemblance to the truth.
Alex Standall and Jessica Davis are the next students implicated on the tapes. Hannah, Jessica, and Alex had enjoyed hanging out at a coffeehouse during their freshman year, and Alex and Jessica had began a romantic relationship that quickly went sour. In a mean-spirited joke aimed at hurting Jessica, Alex created a "Who's Hot/Who's Not" list and distributed it among the students at school. Alex put Hannah at the top of the list entitled "Best Ass in the Freshman Class," with Jessica opposite her under "Worst Ass." Hannah knew it was a joke, but the repercussions for her were severe. Jessica, humiliated, struck Hannah, leaving a scar on her forehead, and, by naming Hannah "Best Ass," Alex had unintentionally affected the way people looked at her, giving some "the go-ahead to treat (her) like (she was) nothing but that specific body part." Hannah was subsequently groped by an arrogant upperclassman at a local convenience store.
Tyler Down hastened the destruction of Hannah's world when he stripped her of privacy and security by surreptitiously photographing her from beneath her bedroom window. When Hannah realized that she was being watched, she confided in Courtney Crimsen, a popular classmate with a reputation for being a good friend, only to discover that the girl was not what she seemed to be. Courtney went to Hannah's house and initiated a salacious scene with her to distract Tyler before exposing him as a Peeping Tom. Hannah had hoped that after this escapade, Courtney and she might become friends, but instead, Courtney ignored her until she finally invited Hannah to go to a party because she needed a ride. Courtney ditched Hannah as soon as they arrived, and later sent a boy over to approach Hannah after telling him provocative lies based on Hannah's false reputation as an easy sexual conquest.
Subsequent experiences intensified Hannah's isolation and contributed to her downward spiral. The cheerleaders at school ran a Valentine's Day fundraiser in which students were to complete a survey expressing their preferences in a mate, then pay to discover whom a computer matched them with. Hannah was paired with "goof-off" Marcus Cooley, who facetiously asked her out on a date. Calling his bluff, Hannah accepted, but while Hannah went to Rosie's, their agreed-upon meeting place, at the designated time, Marcus arrived late, with an "endgame" in mind. Marcus maneuvered Hannah into a secluded booth and, encouraged by the false rumors that she could not escape, tried to make "a move on her"; when Hannah fought back, he loudly called her "a tease" and left. As Hannah sat alone, crushed, Zach Dempsey, a classmate who had been sitting with a group at another table, came over to see if Hannah was all right; when Hannah did not respond, he returned to his friends. Immediately afterward, Hannah, eavesdropping, learned that Zach had come to her table on a dare, trying to get a date. The next day, Hannah gave up on ever being able to...
(The entire section is 1633 words.)