Clay enters Monet’s and orders a coffee, hoping to caffeinate himself enough so that he can stay awake to finish the tapes. He wonders if he should listen to them all or just enough to work out his own part in the story. The girl behind the counter asks him what he’s listening to. He replies, “Just some tapes.” She tells him she had a class with him a couple of years ago, but he doesn’t remember her. She says she thought he was “the nicest guy”—Clay wonders if she’d still think so if she listened to the tapes. He takes his coffee and heads to the patio.
Clay feels a sense of dread about the tapes. He’s not sure what Hannah has to say about him or whether other people’s parts of the story have anything to do with his—would it be enough just to hear the bare minimum? Clay’s lack of recognition of the girl at the counter highlights how oblivious people can be to how their actions affect others.
As Clay looks for a seat, he spills a drop of coffee on the ground, and it reminds him of when he walked past Hannah’s parents’ shoe store earlier today. On the store’s door were notes from delivery people, one of which came unstuck and floated down to rest near Clay’s shoe. He picked it up and stuck it back on the door, noticing all the other notes from previous weeks, including the handwritten sign that read “WELL BE OPEN SOON” with a missing apostrophe. After Hannah’s death, they’d left in a hurry to take her body to their old town for the burial.
The signs of Hannah’s death and absence are visible around town. By taking care to stick the note back onto the shop’s door, Clay demonstrates his thoughtfulness: it’s his instinct to take a moment to make life easier for other people. The handwritten sign, complete with its grammatical error, emphasizes how sudden and unexpected Hannah’s death was for her parents.
The patio is full, so Clay goes back inside, takes a seat near the window, and plays the next side of the tape. After a long silence, he checks whether the tape is actually playing, but eventually he hears Hannah’s voice in a whisper. She addresses Tyler Down, calling him a “Peeping Tom,” which surprises Clay. Hannah says that while the others on the list so far were only liars or jerks, this story will show people that Tyler is creepy—and in return, she’s telling this story as she sits outside his window, waiting for him to get home. Clay tries to imagine how Tyler felt listening to this tape and then passing it along.
Hannah uses dramatic elements to recount this part of the story. She’s clearly thought about the way she wants her listeners to feel, and she reclaims the agency their rumors took from her by power by controlling their emotions. Hannah singles Tyler out here for the specific nature of his behavior, suggesting that creepiness might be worse, in her eyes, than direct rudeness or bullying. Clay’s concern for Tyler’s feelings demonstrates that he’s an empathetic character.
On the tape, Hannah remarks that she can see into Tyler’s hallway, which is full of camera equipment. She knows Tyler will say it’s for his job on the yearbook staff, taking “candid shots of the student body”—a phrase Hannah repeats sarcastically. She asks him whether she was candid enough for him the nights he stood outside her window. She hears Tyler’s car turning into the driveway and her heart pounds. He goes inside and locks the door.
By repeating the phrase “candid shots of the student body” with sarcastic emphasis, Hannah suggests that Tyler took advantage of his role of photographer in order to fixate on one student’s body, not the student population as a whole. Even when Hannah reverses the roles, spying on Tyler as he spied on her, she’s frightened—she can’t ever really take back the control his invasion of her privacy took from her.
While Hannah waits for Tyler to go to bed, she starts telling the story about Tyler stalking her. She tells him that if she got the details wrong, he should fill them in—and so should the others on the list: her stories leave many unanswered questions. Clay wants to tell Hannah he would’ve answered any questions she had for him if she’d just asked, but instead, on the night of the party where they properly talked to each other for the first time, she just yelled at him.
Hannah’s suggestion that the listeners set their own stories straight might not be a practical one. Given what the listeners now know about one another from Hannah’s tapes, they’re unlikely to seek each other out to correct the details. The suggestion makes Clay feel defensive; he feels that Hannah shut him out rather than letting him help her.
The night Hannah first sensed that someone was watching her from outside her window, her parents were out of town, and a boy had just walked her home. That night, after parting ways with the boy, Hannah goes inside herself, brushes her teeth, and walks into her bedroom. Just then, she hears the click of a camera. Though she doesn’t want to accept that it's really the sound of a camera, she gets undressed under the covers rather than right in front of the window. She considers doing something to get the person (who ends up being Tyler) to take another picture, but because her parents aren’t there, she just tries to ignore them, not even picking up her phone because she worries what the person outside will do if they see.
Hannah’s parents trust her enough to leave her home alone as a young teenager, but this makes Hannah feel particularly vulnerable and unable to go to them for help in a tense situation. The thought of being watched makes her feel instantly powerless and disconnected. It’s yet another instance in which Hannah feels out of control of her own life with no way to defend herself—except this time, her physical safety (rather than her reputation) is at stake.
On the tape, Hannah explains that she expects her listeners to blame her for letting Tyler see in so easily, but the truth is she only kept her bedroom blinds open at a sharp angle so that she could see the sky from her bed, and someone outside her room would have to walk right up to the window and stand on their tiptoes to see in. That means that Tyler would have had to stand like that for a long time to get the photos he wanted. She starts to tell the next part of the story, but she interrupts herself to report that, as she records the tape, Tyler has gone to his bedroom. Hannah says she’s not waiting outside Tyler’s window for the satisfaction of revenge—nothing can satisfy her now, because she’s set on killing herself
Hannah anticipates people blaming her, which suggests she’s used to people thinking she’s at fault for the bad things that happen to her. The reason her blinds were open was to connect her to something she found beautiful in the world—and that’s what made her vulnerable to Tyler’s spying. Her source of happiness is also a weakness, which might contribute to her shutting herself off from the things she enjoys.
Hannah continues the story of Tyler’s photography. The day after hearing the camera for the first time, she tells the girl who sits in front of her in class about it. The girl (Courtney Crimsen, though Hannah doesn’t reveal her name yet) seems excited and wonders if the “Peeping Tom” would come back. Hannah suggests that they try and catch him together.
Tyler’s spying terrifies Hannah, but it excites Courtney. This suggests that Hannah feels more vulnerable to other people hurting and controlling her, so she’s more aware of the danger in this situation than Courtney, who just sees it as a thrilling mystery.
After school that day, Courtney goes back to Hannah’s house with her. Once it gets dark, they go to Hannah’s bedroom and talk quietly on the bed until they hear the first click of the camera. Courtney looks shocked but happy. She tells Hannah to “play along” and starts making up false gossip. After a while, the camera clicks stop, so Courtney tells Hannah to give her a back massage and lies down on the bed. Hannah starts rubbing Courtney’s shoulders. The camera clicks start again. Then Courtney suggests that they try to catch the photographer in the act. Hannah doesn’t like the plan—she says one of them should just call the police right now—but Courtney wants to find out who the photographer is.
Courtney’s happiness shows that she treats this situation like a game and is excited to play along. Her first impulse is to use gossip as a tactic, which suggests that making up rumors comes naturally to her. This reveals a stark contrast between Courtney and Hannah: while Courtney is comfortable with rumors and uses them to her advantage, Hannah feels threatened by them. And while Hannah is concerned for her safety, Courtney focuses on solving the mystery for her own satisfaction—a sign that Hannah perhaps shouldn’t trust Courtney. Meanwhile, Tyler enjoys the sexual nature of the photographs he’s taking. He’s using the advantage of his anonymity to claim Hannah’s body as his own possession.
Courtney opens Hannah’s dresser drawer and loudly says, “I didn’t know you were into this. […] We should use it together.” Hannah knows there’s nothing in her room that could provoke that reaction from Courtney, but she plays along as the photographer keeps clicking, and when Courtney gives her the signal, she jumps to the window and yanks the blinds up. The boy (Tyler) moves so fast that Hannah doesn’t see his face, but Courtney screams: she saw him zipping up his pants.
This moment vividly illustrates how rumors can develop to thrill an audience. Courtney understands that the photographer would be excited by something sexual, so she makes something up—a lie that helps them to catch the photographer—but which also contributes to Hannah’s overtly sexual reputation.
The next day, Hannah asks a lot of people at school where they were last night. Tyler gives himself away by being oddly defensive and saying, “Nowhere.” He stops coming around to take photos of Hannah, but she can’t shake the feeling of his presence, and after that, she closes her blinds all the way so she can’t see the stars as she falls asleep. On the tape, she says Tyler took away her feeling of safety, and by sitting outside his window, she’s doing the same to him. She taps on his window before ending the tape.
Hannah never gets complete confirmation that Tyler was the photographer. This leaves open a window of doubt—it’s possible Tyler might in fact be innocent. But Hannah is sure it’s him, which allows her listeners to pin the blame on him for something he potentially might not have done. In including him on the tapes, she contributes to the idea that people’s reputations are often out of their own control, and are based on what people believe about them, which might not be the whole truth.
In the present, Clay takes off the Walkman’s headphones. He walks over to the bookshelf in Monet’s and looks through the stack of “scribble books”—thick books with blank pages that the café’s visitors have scrawled on over the years. He pulls out the one from his and Hannah’s freshman year and flips to September, where he finds the sentence, “Everyone needs an olly-olly-oxen-free,” followed by Hannah’s, Jessica’s, and Alex’s initials. He takes the book back to his seat where he opens it again to find a photo of Hannah with her arm around Courtney Crimsen. Hannah is smiling, but Courtney looks nervous, though Clay doesn’t know why.
Hannah doesn’t only exist on the tapes—she’s also present in the physical world that surrounds Clay. But it’s possible he’s only paying attention to the marks she left on the world because of the tapes. Through her recorded story, Hannah is making her listeners pay attention to her and notice that she was a part of their lives, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. Courtney’s nervous look adds suspense and hints that Hannah will discuss his part of the story in more detail soon.