Cassette 5: Sides A & B

Summary: Cassette 5: Side A

As Clay walks out of Rosie’s, he finds that Tony is sitting in his car as Clay had suspected., Tony calls Clay over and tells him to get in. Tony tells him that he’s the ninth person he’s followed around as they listen to the tapes. Hannah had given Tony the second set of tapes to ensure that everyone followed the rules. When Tony asks which tape Clay was listening to, he responds that it was the one about Ryan—the one with the poem. Clay wants to know why Hannah gave the tapes to Tony. Tony promises to explain everything to Clay if he listens to the next tape while Tony drives. Tony tells Clay that the next tape is about him—Clay.

Hannah starts the tape by saying, “Romeo, oh Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” Hannah says that after only ever hearing good things about Clay she became intrigued, always listening for gossip, hoping to hear that he had a dark secret. She then explains that Clay’s name doesn’t really belong on the list, but he had to be included for her to tell her story. Clay asks Tony why he has to listen, but Tony reassures him that Hannah would have wanted Clay to hear everything.

On the tape Hannah says that messing with one part of someone’s life is, in fact, messing with their entire life. She’d heard that Clay was going to attend a party, something he didn’t usually do. Hannah marked the location of the party on the map. When she found Clay at the party, he told her that they should talk. Clay thinks about that night, remembering that he had to work up the courage to talk to Hannah. They sat on a couch, next to Jessica Davis and Justin Foley. Clay and Hannah talked and laughed for a while before walking to a bedroom, where they stood in the doorway and talked more before eventually kissing. Then they went into the bedroom and closed the door. Hannah adds that she can count the number of people she’s made out with on one hand. Hearing this, Clay starts to have an emotional breakdown in the car, screaming into the palm of his hand. 

Hannah says they kissed and lay next to each other on the bed. Clay whispered to her that he was sorry, sad that it took him so long to finally express his feelings. While they lay on the bed, Hannah thought about her first kiss, with Justin at the park, and all the bad things that happened to her after that. She pushed Clay away and told him to leave. After Clay left, Hannah stayed on the floor and cried.

Hannah then describes writing down all the names of all the people who have impacted her life. She connected the names, starting with Justin, then Alex and Jessica, and so on. When she reached Clay, she had to draw a line back to Justin, because he entered the room after Clay left. 

Clay now remembers that on the first tape Hannah had mentioned that Justin’s name would come up again. Tony pulls the car over and asks Clay if he is okay. Clay says that he misses Hannah and that he had liked her for so long but never had the chance to tell her. Clay finally understands what Hannah was going through the night of the party.

Summary: Cassette 5: Side B

Back on the road, Clay feels like Tony is retracing their route to stall for time. Tony tells Clay that he needs know that Clay is going to be okay. Clay says he doesn’t believe that he can be blamed for Hannah’s suicide, and Tony agrees. Tony then says he will drive Clay to the house where the party Hannah described happened and then answer Clay’s questions.

On the next tape, Hannah resumes her story about the party, starting just after Clay left the bedroom. While she sat on the floor with her back to the far side of the bed, Justin and Jessica stumbled into the bedroom and Jessica was very drunk. Justin tried kissing her but gave up, realizing that she had passed out. When Justin left the bedroom, Hannah walked toward the door, attempting to leave as well, but she decided to wait after seeing the shadow of Justin’s feet in the crack of light under the door. Justin had a short conversation with a boy who said that he wanted to go into the bedroom. Justin told him, “No. Let her rest.” The other boy told Justin that he was working the night shift and he only had a few minutes. Hannah ran and hid in the closet as Justin let the other boy into the room. 

Hannah does not say who the boy is, but based on the description, Clay thinks it was Bryce Walker. At this point, Tony pulls his car over at the party house.

Hannah states that she could have stopped what happened to Jessica, but she was having an emotional meltdown and was trying to steady herself. She says that she or Justin could have stopped it, but both are partially responsible for Jessica being sexually assaulted while passed out. After the boy left, Hannah came out of the closet and found Justin sitting, exhausted. After hearing this, Clay opens the car door and throws up. 

Hannah says that she could have dedicated a tape to the boy who raped Jessica, but he would not have passed the tapes on, and would have instead left town if he was aware that others knew what he had done to Jessica. On the tape, Hannah speaks to Justin, asking why he would still consider the rapist his friend.

Clay demands that Tony explain how he (Tony) is involved in Hannah’s story.

Analysis: Cassette 5: Sides A & B

When gossip and reputations are considered more trustworthy than personal observations, it becomes impossible to create real connections. Cassette 5 reveals Clay’s part in Hannah’s story, giving him insight into his own reputation through a classmate’s eyes. While Clay knew that Hannah’s reputation kept him from getting to know her, he learns that his reputation also stopped her from getting to know him. Despite the damage gossip has done to her life, Hannah seeks out gossip about Clay. None of what she hears about Clay is negative, so she wrongly assumes things about him. Clay believes Hannah is too experienced for him, and she thinks he is too good for her. Hannah acknowledges that Clay doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group on the tapes, but he did play a part in her story. Hannah begins the tape with an allusion to Romeo and Juliet, suggesting that she sees Clay as her star-crossed lover. Any connection between them was doomed by the extreme differences in their reputations.

Though Clay doesn’t belong on Hannah’s list, his inclusion on it helps him understand his role in the interconnected stories of her life. Listening to her truth also gives him insight into his own experiences. The moment that Hannah and Clay talk and kiss at a party offers the potential for a connection that could change everything. Hannah says that the kiss with Clay has the power to replace the first kiss with Justin and allow her to start her story over. Hannah’s meltdown isn’t the one thing that sends her over the edge, because there is never just one thing: every event and every person on the tapes contributed to her decision. When Hannah tells Clay to stop, she shows a desire to protect the moment with Clay from the negative parts of her life. Unlike other guys Hannah has spent time with, Clay respects her wishes, reinforcing his nice guy reputation. The shared moment with Clay has the potential to change Hannah’s life, but by this point she has suffered too much betrayal to risk her sharing her true feelings.

Cassette 5 reveals how devastating the consequences of inaction can be. Hannah’s guilt about the rape she witnesses and doesn’t try to stop is so profound partly because it mirrors her inability to speak up and take control of her own story. As Hannah remains hidden while Bryce rapes Jessica, she draws a parallel between herself and Jessica. Throughout the novel, Hannah has wished someone would step in to help her. Now, Hannah’s physical and emotional state illustrate her own inability to change any of it. While Jessica falsely believed Hannah betrayed her earlier in the story, Hannah truly does betray her now. Hannah’s sense of powerlessness over her own life increases through her inaction. Her decision to exclude Bryce from the list of listeners out of fear he'll destroy the tapes demonstrates her need to act, and therefore signals a personal transformation. As Clay listens, his regret for his own failure to help Hannah mirrors Hannah’s regret for not helping Jessica. Their failures haunt them both.