The book begins as our narrator, Clay Jensen, whose name is not yet revealed, mails a mysterious package to someone named Jenny before school. We soon learn that the package contains the audiotaped suicide note of Hannah Baker, a girl Clay had a crush on before she killed herself about two weeks ago. He has a horrible headache, and he doesn’t want to go to school, because he doesn’t want to see Hannah’s empty desk or Mr. Porter, his school’s guidance counselor who didn’t stop Hannah from committing suicide. In the package, there are a total of seven cassette tapes and thirteen stories. On the first tape, Hannah tells her listeners that she holds each of them responsible in some way for her death, and that the tapes will explain why. After listening, each person must give the tapes to the next person on the list. She says that if anybody fails to pass them along, a copy of the recordings will be made public. The tapes also come with a map that listeners are meant to physically follow as they listen to her story. The story moves back and forth between Hannah’s and Clay’s thoughts and actions. Clay’s thoughts are always mixed in with Hannah’s stories. The thirteen stories (“reasons why”) are:
1. Justin Foley, the boy who Hannah had her first kiss with, started rumors that they did more than just kiss when they only kissed, and people started being mean to her. 2. Alex Standall, a former friend of Hannah and Jessica Davis, pitted Hannah and Jessica against each other by voting Hannah “Best Ass of the Freshman Class”, and voting Jessica “Worst Ass of the Freshman Class”. Jessica had previously been really close to Alex, so she got mad because she thought that Alex liked Hannah better, and she took out her anger on Hannah. 3. Jessica Davis was upset by this and ended up hitting Hannah, leaving a scar on her forehead. This really hurt Hannah because this showed that Jessica believed rumors rather than her friend telling her the truth. 4. A boy that goes to their school named Tyler Down took pictures of Hannah through her window. (she calls him a Peeping Tom). A girl named Courtney Crimson who she originally thought was nice helped her catch Tyler, and he stopped taking pictures of her. Courtney turned out to be using Hannah. 5. Courtney started rumors that Hannah had sex toys in her bedroom. People started being meaner to her.
She got Courtney back by pretending that they were close friends, and she got Tyler to take a picture of them together. She also asked Courtney during a party loudly if she wanted to play with her sex toys. As he’s listening to Courtney’s tape, Clay gets on the city bus and runs into his middle school crush, Skye Miller. He wonders why Skye always isolates herself from everybody and wears ugly baggy clothes, which lower her level of prettiness. They exchange a few words and then Clay gets off the bus, outside of Tyler Down’s house which is starred on the map that he was given. There, he runs into Marcus Cooley a boy that goes to his school. He invites Clay to throw a rock at Tyler’s window (which is already broken and taped). He later learns that Marcus is also on the tapes, so he must be guilty of something, too. 6. After getting matched up with Hannah through a Valentine’s Day survey urn by the school cheerleaders, Marcus tried to make a move on her in a booth at Rosie’s Diner. She had to push him out of the booth and onto the floor to get him to stop. A boy named Zach Dempsey tried to comfort her and he was really nice to her, but Hannah ignored him because she couldn’t trust any more boys, even if they weren’t going to hurt her.
Still listening, Clay heads toward Rosie’s, the next stop on the map. On his way he sees the Crestmont Theater, where he and Hannah worked the previous summer. He got the job to be close to her, but he was uneasy about the all of rumors, so he didn’t tell her how he felt about her. He now really regrets not telling her. 7. When Hannah ignored Zach Dempsey’s attempts to comfort her after the incident with Marcus, Zach stole the notes of encouragement left for Hannah by her classmates in her Peer Communications class. They were here only remaining comfort in her life. She caught him stealing them. She didn’t blame him because she had ignored him at Rosie’s, but it still left a mark. 8. Hannah met Ryan Shaver in a poetry class and really trusted him. They shared their poetry with each other, and they connected well and had long discussions about their poetry. Hannah really admired Ryan’s poetry, and she said in one of her tapes that he would become a famous poet. But he stole a very personal poem of Hannah’s and published it, leading to more ridicule for Hannah.
Clay leaves Rosie’s and finds his friend Tony waiting for him in the parking lot. Tony tells him that he is the one who has the second set of tapes, the ones that will be released to the public if Clay’s tapes aren’t passed on according to Hannah’s wishes. Clay has so many questions to ask, but Tony refuses to answer anything until Clay listens to the next recording.
9. The ninth tape is about Clay and Hannah assures him that he had nothing to do with her suicide. He was actually really good to Hannah. He even confessed his feelings to her during a party the school-year after they worked at the movie theater and they kissed. She said that their kiss was wonderful, but it was ruined by Justin Foley, the boy from the first tape, walking into the room with Hannah’s former friend Jessica, who was unconscious. 10. Justin allowed Bryce Walker, his friend to have sex with Jessica while she was unconscious. Hannah was hiding in the closet and she could have stopped it, but for some reason, she didn’t. She blamed herself, Bryce, and Justin for what happened.
After Clay finishes that tape, Tony explains that some days before Hannah’s death, she came to Tony’s House and gave him her blue bicycle. Tony insisted that he should give her something in return, so she asked if he had a cassette tape recorder and he did, so he gave it to her. on the day of Hannah’s death, he found the tapes waiting for him when he got home from school. When he realized what Hannah was up to, he called her parents and he told them that he was worried about her, but he was too late. Since then, he’s been following the people on the list making sure they follow Hannah’s instructions. 11. After a party, Jenny Kurtz offered Hannah a ride home, but knocked down a stop sign with her car. Hannah wanted to call the police about it, but Jenny refused to report the incident. Shortly after, a boy was killed at that stop sign. 12. One night, the final weekend of her life, Hannah was babysitting. Down the street a party was going on, and she decided to go and see if anyone needed a ride. At the party, Bryce Walker called her over, started to touch Hannah in a hot-tub, and Hannah let Bryce, whom she despised, have sex with her, because she had given up on life. 13. Mr. Porter, Hannah’s guidance counselor, didn’t take her seriously when she said she was suicidal, and he let her leave his office without getting her any help.
The book ends with Clay going to school the next day after mailing the tapes to Jenny. When he gets there, he sees Skye Miller, the girl from the bus in Mr. Porter’s office. He walks toward her, calling her name. I think that meant that he was going to save her from committing suicide. Protagonist: Clay Jensen
Themes: I think that there are several themes of this book: guilt, blame, betrayal, and death.