Hannah welcomes the listeners back and reveals that this side of the tape is about Alex Standall. Alex voted Hannah “Best Ass in the Freshman Class,” and Hannah expects that he has no idea why he’s part of these tapes. Clay listens, sitting on the curb as the sun begins to set. Hannah tells Alex that, if he thinks she’s overreacting, he can just stop listening—but she threatens him and the other listeners with the second set of tapes.
Hannah’s suggestion that Alex doesn’t know why he’s on her list is a sign that Alex may have considered his slangy, rhyming list a joke and so failed to realize the real impact the list had on the people it named.
Hannah recalls one morning in class in freshman year when a list begins to circulate. That morning, while her class watches a dull documentary, she hears whispers around her, followed by the sound of the boy behind her leaning over his desk to peer over the back of her chair. The boy says, “You bet it is.” She confronts him and discovers the list titled “Who’s Hot/Who’s Not.” As Clay listens to the story, he realizes that Hannah’s reputation must have begun with Justin’s rumors.
The list immediately changes how Hannah’s peers act toward her: from the very moment one of the boys in her class reads it, he takes the opportunity to observe her body in a sexual way and comment on it for others’ entertainment. Hannah’s story allows Clay to realize that the things he thinks are true about the people around him may actually just be the products of rumors.
Hannah doesn’t care which side of the list she’s on; she just wants to know what everyone’s whispering about. Before the teacher confiscates the list, Hannah finds her name under “Best Ass.” She looks across the room to see Jessica Davis looking upset—Jessica’s name is under “Worst Ass.” She thinks Jessica is actually much prettier than her (though Clay disagrees). She knows that Alex gave them their labels out of revenge. More importantly, Alex’s choice to write her name down meant that her reputation kept growing. Clay gets up from the curb and starts walking again. He thinks Hannah is being unfair—the list was just a bad joke—and he worries how his own reputation will change after people hear these tapes.
What bothers Hannah isn’t so much what the list says about her but the fact that her peers exclude her from their jokes as they pass around the list. Hannah understands that the list can’t be objectively true and that Alex wrote it out of revenge. As Clay listens and reflects on what Hannah says, the reader starts to understand that he was attracted to Hannah, though this reveals itself in ways he himself might not realize. At this point, Clay doesn’t think the people on Hannah’s list deserve to be singled out. It isn’t clear to him how a joke could have hurt Hannah so badly.
Clay arrives at the location of the first star on the map. It’s Hannah’s old house. Clay is shocked by a bizarre coincidence: a month ago, he had to run to this house to tell the wife of the couple that now live here that her husband, an elderly man, had been involved in a car crash. The husband was safe, but he had been unable to reach his wife on the phone. Clay had had no idea that this house was once Hannah’s home. As he stands staring up at the house, he wonders whether Hannah’s story would’ve been different had she met Zach that summer day before the start of school—what if she had been attracted to Zach instead of Justin? Would she still be alive?
The coincidence concerning Hannah’s old house is an oddity that ties Clay and Hannah together, even though Hannah is no longer alive. It suggests that Clay might discover more, deeper connections between himself and Hannah as the tapes go on. Here, Clay also begins to think about how interconnected everybody in this story is and to realize how small actions or even coincidences can shape people’s lives.
On the tape, Hannah continues to tell the story of Alex’s list. The day it comes out, she doesn’t take it too seriously. But the list allows the people around her to start objectifying her. She tells the listener to head to the next starred location on their maps: Blue Spot Liquor. It’s a tiny store plastered in ads for cigarettes and alcohol, but there’s a rack in front of the counter with all her favorite candy bars. The day the list comes out, Hannah goes to Blue Spot as usual, but as she’s searching for money to pay for her candy bar, a boy walks in. She doesn’t name the boy on the current tape just yet, though she says he has a whole tape to himself.
At least from Hannah’s perspective, she’s not an overly sensitive person and can see a bad joke for what it is. Her habitual visits to Blue Spot Liquor also show that she’s used to spending her time after school alone. Hannah has clearly thought through the structure of her tapes before recording them, which means she’s able to foreshadow whose names will appear next—holding her listeners in suspense.
As Hannah finishes paying for her candy, the boy who just walked in slaps Hannah’s butt. He tells Wally, the man behind the counter, that Hannah was named “Best Ass in the Freshman Class.” Wally clicks his tongue, the first sound Hannah has ever heard him make, and she can tell he’s furious. She slaps the boy’s hand away.
Hannah knows how to stand up for herself, a suggestion that someone has touched her without her consent before. For young women growing up in a society in which men usually have more power and bodily autonomy, dealing with unwanted advances is a useful skill to have. Wally failure to help Hannah in any substantial way reaffirms that she’s on her own.
In the present, Clay pauses the tape as he arrives at Blue Spot Liquor. Wally isn’t behind the counter today. Clay wonders why he’s disappointed. He chooses a soda at random and picks a Butterfinger from the candy rack. As he pays, he asks the clerk whether Wally still works here; the clerk replies that Wally has the day shift.
Clay knows he feels invested in Hannah’s story, but he can’t quite figure out why. It’s as if a mysterious force is connecting him to Hannah, which is also evident when he buys a candy bar just like Hannah used to.
Clay continues listening to the tape. After Hannah pays for her candy and swats the boy’s hand away, she tries to leave Blue Spot, but the boy grabs her wrist and spins her around. She tries to pull away; he tells her he’s “only playing” and lets her go.
Despite Hannah’s clear body language showing she doesn’t want the boy to touch her, he persists and overpowers her physically. When she seems upset, he treats the situation like a joke—claiming power over her emotions, too.
Clay recognizes the boy Hannah is talking about. Even though he’s always wanted to confront him, he’s always ignored his behavior instead. He sits outside Blue Spot and wonders why he bought the Butterfinger—he isn’t hungry, so did he only buy it because Hannah used to buy candy there? He wonders why that would matter to him and reminds himself he doesn’t need to copy every single thing Hannah describes.
Clay’s failure to stop the boy’s behavior shows how people can be complicit in upholding gender inequality, even if they themselves don’t actively mistreat women and girls. The tapes are beginning to deeply affect Clay; he’s struggling not to follow Hannah’s map precisely as he listens to her tell her story.
On the tape, Hannah analyzes what happened in Blue Spot that day. By saying “I’m only playing,” the boy claimed Hannah’s body as something that belonged to him, that he could play with. By telling Hannah to relax, he belittled her feelings.
Hannah uses the tapes to analyze her own feelings and the way people around her affect them. The sexist attitudes of many male figures in her life make her feel trapped and out of control.
Clay begins to realize what Hannah means by the list affecting people’s opinions of each other. He remembers that after he read the name under “Best Lips,” he could only focus on that girl’s lips whenever she spoke, not the words she was saying. When the boy grabbed Hannah’s butt in Blue Spot Liquor that day, she was especially angry because she knew he’d done it after seeing her name on a list. She tells Alex that when he wrote his list, he left the people on it open to ridicule. That’s what he did to Jessica, too—and the next tape is all about Jessica.
Through Hannah’s story, Clay begins to realize how rumors might influence his own behavior, and how that behavior harms his relationships with other people. Even though Hannah has already died, her tapes could allow her to keep changing the world. Perhaps her revelations will help to prevent other people from suffering as she did.