Hannah begins the next tape by addressing Courtney Crimsen. She says that Courtney has a pretty name and is a pretty girl; everyone thinks she’s sweet—but they’re wrong. Courtney seems nice, but Hannah thinks it’s all for show. She reveals that Courtney was the one who helped her catch Tyler taking photos of her by setting up a fake, posed situation—and that kind of posing was something Courtney did all the time at school. She tells Courtney that she’s including her on the tapes because Courtney needs to realize how her superficial behavior affects other people.
Courtney’s alliterative name is almost comically melodic. It suggests that Courtney seems excessively sweet and perfect, but to an unrealistic degree: there must be more to her personality than just sweetness. Hannah’s reason for including Courtney underscores that she wants her tapes to change people’s behavior and so make the world a better place for other people—they’re not just about blaming people for what they did to her.
Hannah says she doesn’t hate Courtney or even dislike her. She thought she and Courtney were becoming friends for a while, before she realized that Courtney only wanted her to think she was a nice person. The day after they caught Tyler together, Hannah and Courtney shared a few sentences in class, but once class was over, Courtney left without saying goodbye. Hannah was surprised: she thought after what they’d experienced together, Courtney would start treating her like a closer friend, but instead Courtney kept her at arm’s length.
The fact that Hannah includes Courtney on her list even though she doesn’t hate or dislike her shows that she’s more interested in highlighting how people’s actions have hurt her than in claiming those people aren’t good people. For Hannah, it’s more important to show her listeners how they affected her life—and in a broader sense, how their actions affect other people.
As Clay listens, he pulls out the map and searches for the star on Tyler’s house. He feels like he’s becoming obsessed with Hannah’s story, but he tells himself he’s only doing what she asked—and that means that he’s respectful, not obsessed. Feeling overwhelmed, he takes off the headphones to think. A bus drives past Monet’s 15 minutes later, and Clay runs out the door to catch it. Once on board, he puts the headphones on again.
Clay has a hard time working out whether he’s in the right or in the wrong as he listens to Hannah’s tapes. Her revelations have clearly rattled him and he’s no longer certain about the right thing to do—Hannah’s tapes are changing his reality.
Courtney only started treating Hannah like a friend again on the day of a big party. (Hannah notes that she’ll discuss a later, more important party in these tapes, but this is the one that involves Courtney.) The day of this party, Courtney finds Hannah at school and suggests that they attend together. Hannah thinks she remembers Courtney tilting her head to the side and batting her eyes. She asks Courtney why they should go together. Hannah’s question surprises Courtney—Courtney’s used to people wanting to be seen with her. Courtney denies ignoring Hannah and says that the party would be a good chance to get to know each other better. Hannah agrees to go with her, to which she says, “Great! Can you drive?”
Hannah is accustomed to reading other people’s body language to figure out their real motivation. She doesn’t trust the people around her and feels defensive, even when people seem to be acting in a friendly way. Her defensiveness pays off here, because Courtney’s question shows that Courtney was really only pretending to be friendly to placate Hannah and get a ride to the party. Courtney obviously doesn’t realize that Hannah doesn’t buy into her pretend friendship: she’s used to making people feel like she genuinely wants to be their friend.
Looking back, Hannah theorizes that Courtney asked her to the party because she knew she’d hurt Hannah’s feelings by ignoring her, and in order to make sure Hannah thought she was a nice person, she needed to fix things. When Hannah arrives to pick Courtney up that night, she tries to convince herself that Courtney really wants to be friends, but deep down she knows Courtney just wants her to drive her to the party.
Courtney is preoccupied with her own reputation, but because Hannah understands how superficial reputations can be, she knows that Courtney doesn’t really want to be friends. Still, she tries to be hopeful—she’s still open to the potential of friendship.
On the bus, Clay opens the map and looks for the location of the party—it’s close to Tyler’s house. He’s not following the map because Hannah told him to—he’s following it because he wants to understand her story as fully as he can. He sees that the bus route will stop near Tyler’s house.
Clay finds it important to make his own decisions. He still doesn’t completely trust Hannah’s side of the story—he wants to allow himself to understand as much about the circumstances as he can.
Hannah’s story continues. Courtney and Hannah park a couple of blocks away from the party and they hear the music blaring already. At the gate to the party, two footballers start to tell them the admission price before realizing they’re talking to Courtney; when they do, they wave her and Hannah in. As soon as they get through the gate, Courtney tells Hannah they should split up—but that Hannah shouldn’t leave without her, because Hannah is her ride home.
From the loud music to the stereotypical footballers guarding the entrance, the party seems like it’ll be an eventful (and perhaps overwhelming) evening. The footballers at the gate also reinforce the idea that young men are in control—specifically, physically strong young men with the power to intimidate others.
Back on the bus, a girl’s voice shocks Clay by asking whether he missed his stop. He pauses the tape and sees Skye, his eighth-grade crush, smirking at him. Over the last few years, Clay has noticed Skye wearing dull, baggy clothing, as if she’s trying to disappear. She starts to make conversation with him, and he notices she’s saying more than he’s heard her say to anyone in a long time. He wonders why she changed so much since eighth grade—why she seems determined to be an outsider, as she’s demonstrating by staring at him now, trying to make him uncomfortable. He tries to decide between getting off at the next stop and staying to talk to her, but she says, “See you tomorrow,” and he feels relieved to be let out of the conversation.
Skye’s transformation mirrors the transformation Hannah seems to be going through over the course of her taped story. Just as Hannah started to distance herself from other people and give up control over her own life, Skye seems to be isolating herself and becoming less social. Clay doesn’t really realize this similarity, though, and it’s ironic that he wants to dismiss his conversation with Skye while getting more involved in Hannah’s story at the same time.
Clay gets off the bus and starts walking to Tyler’s house. He isn’t sure how to tell which one it is, but as he draws closer, he sees a house with a broken window held together by duct tape. He wonders whether someone threw a rock at Tyler’s window. Out of nowhere, a voice shocks him by asking, “You want to throw something?” He spins around to see Marcus Cooley offering him a rock. Marcus tells Clay he’ll feel better if he throws the rock. Clay knows that Marcus must have listened to the tapes, because he knows that Clay and Tyler are both mentioned in them, too.
Other listeners’ decision to throw rocks at Tyler’s window is a response to what they have heard about Tyler from Hannah’s tapes: he invaded her privacy by peering through her bedroom blinds, so they’ve decided to retaliate by damaging his bedroom window and threatening his security. Marcus suggests that blaming other people makes him feel better, a sign that he hasn’t taken much time to think about how his actions affected Hannah—he just wants to believe that someone did something worse than what he did.
Marcus puts the rock in Clay’s hands and tells him he’d be the first to say no to throwing one at Tyler’s window. (Alex was the first to throw one; other people on the tapes must also think Tyler deserves to be attacked.) Clay is confused: everyone on the tapes is guilty of something, so why are they singling Tyler out? Clay says Marcus is a “dick.” Marcus explains that Tyler is a “freak” and that what Marcus did was “nothing” in comparison; he thinks he’s only on the tapes because Hannah “wanted an excuse to kill herself.” Clay drops the rock to stop himself from throwing it at Marcus. Then he walks away, putting the headphones back on.
Marcus’s attitude toward Tyler highlights how powerful a narrative can be. Hannah’s story about Tyler on the tapes leads Marcus to believe that Tyler is the worst of all the people on Hannah’s list and is therefore most to blame for Hannah’s death. The idea of Tyler that Marcus has from Hannah’s story fuels his rage while shifting his focus away from his own behavior. He also reduces Hannah’s story to an “excuse,” another sign that he didn’t listen to her tapes with much empathy and is more focused on maintaining his own innocence.
On the tape, Hannah continues to tell the story of the party. She sees a fistfight for the first time. The image of two boys fighting each other to protect their macho reputations, coupled with the fact that Courtney used her to improve her own reputation, makes Hannah want to vomit to try to exert some kind of control over her situation. The bathroom is occupied, so she goes back outside and tries to leave, but Tyler is standing at the gate with his camera. When he sees her, he looks ashamed and tries to hide the camera. She starts to confront him, but then a boy interrupts her. He says that Courtney sent him—she told him Hannah was good company.
The fistfight is an outward manifestation of Hannah’s feeling of loss of control. It’s a violent situation that echoes the violence she feels in this social situation—people’s rumors about her are similar to physical attacks. Hannah can’t escape the tangled threads of rumor and danger. She runs into Tyler as she’s trying to leave, emphasizing how trapped she feels among the people who are using her to their advantage.
At first, Hannah doesn’t mind the attention—she thinks the boy is cute—but then he reveals that he actually just overheard Courtney saying that Hannah had “a few surprises” in her dresser drawers. (In the present, Clay is shocked: he knows Courtney completely made that up.) Hannah asks the boy what Courtney said was in the drawers, but the boy just smiles. She starts shaking and asks him why he believed Courtney. He tells her to calm down. Hannah decides to get Tyler to take a picture of her and Courtney. Tyler starts to sweat, and when Hannah asks Courtney to be in a picture with her, she says she doesn’t want to. Eventually, though, Tyler takes their picture—the one Clay ended up finding in the scribble book.
This is yet another moment in which Hannah gets her hopes up about forming a genuine connection with another person—only to realize they’re just taking advantage of her. In this case, the boy is excited to pursue her because, thanks to Courtney’s lie, he thinks she has some sexual objects in her bedroom and that that would make her a more exciting date. Instead of actually wanting to get to know Hannah, he’s only interested in the sexual things Courtney has implied about her. Once again, a rumor has warped Hannah’s reality, preventing her from forming rewarding, genuine relationships.
After the picture, Hannah tells Courtney she’s leaving and that Courtney should find another ride home. As she walks to her car, Tyler catches up to her to ask for a ride. Hannah starts laughing—does Tyler really not know she knows that he’s been taking pictures of her at home? Even so, she agrees to drive him home, though she refuses to talk to him the whole way there. After Hannah drops Tyler off, she drives home the longest way possible and eventually realizes she’s completely sick of this town. (As Clay, in the present, listens to Hannah’s tape, he realizes he feels the same way.)
Hannah’s only able to take control of her situation by depriving Courtney of something—she can decide who she breaks bonds with, but she has no control over making and keeping real friendships. Furthermore, she still feels that Tyler controls her, leaving her unable to set her own boundaries despite feeling unsafe in his company. Hannah’s revelations about different people at school make Clay feel angry about living in this town. He empathizes with Hannah’s anger toward the others.