“Hey it’s Hannah, Hannah Baker… get a snack, settle in, cause I’m about to tell you the story of my life."
Thus says Hannah Baker in a voice-over that begins the poignant teenage series that is 13 Reason Why.
From the beginning, we know that she is dead, since the camera pans over at her memorial in her old locker.
We are also introduced to Clay Jensen, the boy through which we will see this story.
Who is he? Is he Hannah’s boyfriend? Is he the best friend? Or simply the cliché boy-next-door?
He stares at her locker memorial, but then he is confronted by another teenage boy who asks him “Looking for something?” Clay is perplexed and so are we. “Do you even know my name?” he asks.
“Of course I do, Clay” the boy replies.
Then their conversation is interrupted by faculty who tells them to go to their respective classes. “You’re not that innocent Jensen. I don’t give a shit what she says,” the boy snickers.
Which gives us a hint that there is more to Hannah’s death than meets the eye.
The school’s atmosphere is tense with Hannah’s implied suicide. And there is a sense that the administration is trying to prevent another one among their students.
The students themselves seem to be trying their best to cope. When Clay goes out to leave after dismissal he is hugged by a girl named Courtney who tells him that they need to be there for each other.
After that, a teenage boy named Tony asks him if he wants a ride home. It seems like such a weirdly friendly school, or a guilty one.
Clay takes the ride and discovers Tony’s penchant for old cassette tapes. He even has a tape deck and a Walkman in his car. This piece of information would prove useful for him later.
They would pass by the local movie theater and in a memory we learn how Clay met Hannah. As it turns out they worked together in that same movie theater when she first moved to town.
Tony drops Clay at his front door. As Clay approaches his home, he finds a box with his name scrawled across it on the porch.
He takes it inside and, after giving pause, opens the mysterious package. It contains cassette tapes marked with numbers and a map.
Curious he asks his dad for his old “boombox”.
He then listens to the first tape, and with it we hears Hannah’s voice. “I’m about to tell you the story of my life – more specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to this tape, you’re one of the reasons why,” she says.
Clay’s listening session is abruptly interrupted by his mom’s hand on his shoulder. Which causes him to drop the “boombox”.
She asks him what’s wrong and what he is listening to. And he gives an excuse not wanting to tell his mother that a dead girl just said that he is one of the reasons why she killed herself.
He then promptly takes the tapes and the cassette deck to his room and discovers that he had broken it.
Remembering that Tony has a Walkman, he leaves his parents' home and rides his bike to his friend’s house.
He finds Tony and his Dad working on his car. He sneakily offers to help by starting the ignition while they check the engine, and in the process he swipes the Walkman. (Seriously, Clay. You could have asked.)
He decides to do the stupid thing and ride his bicycle on the street while listening to the tape, which is already bad enough without a voice from the grave haunting you with guilt. Not surprising he gets into an accident, as a familiar car causes him to swerve.
Clay loses control of the bike and takes a tumble, resulting in a cut to his forehead.
Despite all of that, he still proceeds to follow what the tape says. Hannah gave instructions that the map found in the box was meant to point out different locations of places of which she talks about.
Clay decides to go with it, but his mom did insist on a helmet after his “accident”.
He heads out for another ride, listening to Hannah’s voice.
Hannah narrates the story of how she met Justin Foley, who, as it turns out, is the subject of Side A of the first tape.
She tells the story of a party in her house to which Clay was also invited.
The party was meant for Kat, Hannah’s only friend, who was going away soon. She seems to be quite popular since a lot of people turned up.
Kat has known Clay since they were kids. Having known him for so long, she is able to sense that he has feelings for Hannah, but like a lot of normal awkward teenage boys, he is afraid to say anything.
She is sympathetic and points out to Clay that although he is a prize, she states (in hindsight, correctly) that Hannah has terrible taste in guys.
Funny enough, it's possible that if Kat had stayed, Hannah wouldn’t have killed herself.
Later during the party, Hannah meets Justin for the first time in front of the house. He is engaged in a wrestling match with his friend Zach while the grass sprinklers are turned on. So both boys are wet. Kat then introduces both to Hannah. Justin is, in fact, her boyfriend (which makes her terrible taste in boys comments seem a tad ironic). She then makes a comment that Zach is meant for Hannah.
Both boys then attempt to go up to the house. Kat turns them away because they are both wet.
Justin does the cheeky thing and takes off his shirt. Kat says it’s better, but still didn't want them to approach. It did pique Hannah’s interest, since she even notes Justin’s smile as he left. This is “the problem,” she says on her tape.
Oh, and as it turns out, Justin is the one that confronted Clay in front of Hannah’s locker!
Hannah narrates that Kat left before school started. She realizes that she has an attraction towards Justin. So, over Skype she asks Kat’s permission to be with Justin.
Kat is okay with the notion and pushes her friend to be with her ex. And thus, Hannah utilizes the old girl moves, of unintentionally being where Justin is. Also, playing it hot and cold, which works (much to her detriment.)
Eventually, the two wind up in a playground where Hannah has her first kiss. Just a kiss, despite what others think, as she notes on her tape.
Back in present time, Clay had gone to the playground listening to Hannah’s voice, when Tony arrives and points out to his Walkman.
Clay fumbles that he was about to ask. But Tony says it’s no sweat.
He advises Clay not to ride his bike while listening to it, he then notes the location. “Eisenhower Park” he muses, “Which means you are about ready for side 2,” he says before departing.
Clay keeps on listening through the night.
As the tape continues, Hannah narrates the aftermath of the kiss.
As usual with teenage boys, Justin is accosted by his friends to share the details of what happened with Hannah.
They continue to badger him, wanting to know which base he got to. Justin, trying to be the big guy among his friends, shows them a picture of Hannah he took with his phone.
His friends are delighted, and they joke around. One of them, Bryce Walker, grabs his phone despite his half-hearted protests and sends a mass text message.
The picture soon circulates around campus.
Back in present time, Clay confronts Tony about what he knows about the tapes. Tony is vague and explains that he is not on it, urging Clay to just follow the instructions and stick with it.
And in a flashback, we see Hannah trying to have lunch with Clay in the high school cafeteria after her picture had circulated.
It was obvious she only wanted a friendly face, but being that he fancied Hannah, his conversation had a tinge of jealousy in it.
Without meaning to, he is curt with her while all she seemed to want is comfort, and she leaves angrily.
In present time, all the memories weigh in on Clay as he seems to see Hannah everywhere in the high school halls, and later that night he contemplates whether to listen to Side 2.
“Turn the tape over for more,” Hannah’s voice says.
And Clay does so….