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Hannah begins the next tape by saying that although everyone thinks that Courtney Crimsen is popular, pretty, and very friendly, Courtney uses people to maintain her reputation and is actually very fake. Hannah confirms Clay’s suspicion that Courtney was the girl who came over to Hannah’s house during the Peeping Tom incident. The next day at school, Hannah and Courtney laughed about the incident, but they didn’t actually become friends. Hannah said that Courtney was nice to her in the hallway, but without ever engaging her in a meaningful conversation. When Hannah recounts that Courtney suggested that the two of them go to a party together, Clay is reminded that Courtney flirts with everyone. Hannah ends up driving Courtney to the party, which is extremely loud and disorderly. Clay thinks to himself that he doesn’t go to such parties, because he is close to being valedictorian.
Clay leaves the coffee shop, wanting to go to the next red star on the map—Tyler’s house. Clay wonders if he’s listening to the tapes to carry out Hannah’s last wish or if he’s just becoming obsessed with them. While rides a city bus to Tyler’s neighborhood, Skye Miller, a girl that Clay knows from school, briefly talks with him. Clay had a crush on Skye in eighth grade, but at some point, she insisted on being an outcast and he hasn’t talked to her much since. When Clay exits the bus, he figures out which house is Tyler’s: the bedroom window has duct tape across it.
As he stands outside Tyler’s house, Marcus Cooley approaches Clay and asks if he wants to throw a rock at Tyler’s window. Clay realizes that Marcus must also be on the tapes. Marcus tells Clay that he’s the third person other than himself who has come to Tyler’s house because of the tapes—and that all the others have thrown rocks at Tyler’s window. Finding himself uncomfortable, Clay tells Marcus to stay away from him and departs.
At the party, Hannah saw a fistfight, which she found disturbing. Then, a student from another school approached Hannah and told her that Courtney suggested he talk to her. When Hannah asked why, specifically, the boy told her that Courtney said Hannah was fun to hang out with. Pressed for more details, he explained that Courtney was telling everyone around the kegs that Hannah had surprises buried in her dresser drawers. Hannah became angry and found Tyler at the party. She told Tyler to come take and take a picture of her with Courtney—the same photo that Clay saw in the book at Monet’s. Hannah put her arm around Courtney and said, “If you ever want to borrow anything from my dresser, Courtney, all you need to do is ask.” That’s why Courtney looks so uncomfortable in the photo and Hannah is laughing. The tape ends with Hannah saying that later that night she realized that she was sick of the town and everything in it. Clay thinks to himself, that he’s starting to share these feelings.
Using Courtney Crimsen as an example, Cassette 3 explores how perceptions about people often differ greatly from reality. Hannah explains that on the surface Courtney seems friendly and kind, but her friendliness is a façade. Since Courtney helped Hannah nab Tyler as the peeping Tom, Hannah believes they’ve developed a connection. Courtney’s actions, including using Hannah for a ride to a party and spreading a lie that Hannah has sex toys hidden in her drawer, confirm that her reputation for kindness is undeserved. Courtney is not kind, and Hannah is not promiscuous: neither girl’s reputation is rooted in truth, proving that real people are much more complex than their public image. Hannah asks Tyler to take a picture of Courtney because it illustrates the disconnect. The image, which shows Courtney in a less than perfect light, will never make it into the yearbook. While other students believe her fake smile, Hannah, Tyler, and Courtney know the truth. People’s tendency to judge others as good or bad based on their reputations rather than the facts results in a distorted understanding of people’s true nature.
As the novel introduces new characters, Hannah demonstrates the way that one person’s choices can affect another person’s life. Hannah compares her life to an anthology of stories written by other people, suggesting that most perceptions of her are a result of others’ actions. Hannah’s choices affect Clay as well as the other people named on the tapes, as they will likely never be the same after listening to them. In turn, their actions will go on to impact others. Every person is a character in the stories of others, and sometimes people don’t even know or understand what part they play. By listening to the tapes, Clay plays the role Hannah has created for him. His concern implies that he feels guilty about something, despite his well-known reputation as a nice guy. Unlike Justin, Alex, Courtney, and Tyler, who were motivated by selfishness, Clay sincerely desired to connect with Hannah but still let her down. The tapes teach Clay his own power by repeatedly revealing how every choice that a person makes is an opportunity to have an effect, positive or negative, on other people.
Throughout Hannah’s story, the tapes explore how guilt affects people differently. Hannah believes that Courtney asked her to go to the party to assuage her guilt for ignoring her at school. Clay avoids his reflection, unable to face himself as he worries about what story Hannah will tell about him. Marcus encourages Clay to throw a rock at Tyler’s windows, which he and Alex have already done to temper their own guilt. Marcus and Alex rationalize that Tyler’s actions were worse than theirs, and when Marcus downplays his role in Hannah’s story then blames her for wanting an excuse to kill herself, he denies the role he played in her suffering. By apologizing to Tyler on tape for using his story to introduce Courtney’s role, Hannah tries to soothe her own guilt. Tyler handles guilt by attempting to start conversations with Hannah when she gives him a ride home. Hannah suggests that everyone shares some of the guilt in this story, and the way that people choose to respond to guilt reveals a lot about their character.