On Friday, March 31, Netflix will finally unveil 13 Reasons Why, its much-anticipated adaption of Jay Asher's bestselling young adult novel of the same name. The show, produced by Selena Gomez and Spotlight's Tom McCarthy, is an incisive, heart-wrenching dive into the hardships that too often plague adolescence, confronting raw, relevant themes of suicide, sexuality, and assault. It revolves around the death of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a troubled teen who rehashes the circumstances that led up to her suicide through a series of confessional, pre-recorded cassettes. But before you plunge into the series, you may want a quick primer on the order of the tapes in 13 Reasons Why, because they're crucial to understanding the show.
They start from the beginning, demonstrating how even the smallest acts escalated into a butterfly effect that threw Hannah's life off-track. As her story unfolds, quintessential nice guy Clay Jenkins (Dylan Minnette) serves as our on-screen compass. He can only bear to listen to the tapes in pieces, so the narrative often cuts between the past and present day. Soon after he receives them in a mysterious package, he falls off of his bike and gets a pretty gnarly gash in his forehead, which, when visible, serves as a helpful marker that what's happening is taking place in the present. But just in case you get lost in the back-and-forth, here's a handy guide to the Netflix series’ timeline, which does differ from that of the book.
Hannah's tapes pick up with Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn), a basketball player who's BFFs with high school big shot Bryce (Justin Prentice). Hannah meets him at a party over the summer and they initially spark up a mutual flirtation, but things later take a sour turn. Their relationship sets off a domino effect in Hannah's life, and she cites him as the impetus for her problems.
Next up is Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe), a military brat who starts school around the same time as Hannah. The two become fast friends after their guidance counselor wisely introduces them, but friction from boys, popularity, and cliques later creates a rift. (In the book, the second tape is dedicated to Alex).
Then enters Alex Standall (Miles Heizer), another fellow new kid. Jessica and Hannah invite him to join their newly formed friend group after meeting him at the local coffee shop. Things run smoothly for a while, but eventually, the age-old saying proves true: three's a crowd. (In the book, the third tape is dedicated to Jessica).
The fourth tape revolves around Tyler Down (Devin Druid), a shy outcast whose crush on Hannah causes him to invade her privacy, further fueling the (false) rumors that trail her.
Tape number five goes out to type-A honor student Courtney Crimson (Michelle Selene Ang). As she struggles to embrace her identity, she betrays Hannah's friendship in a devastating way.
When Marcus Cole (Steven Silver) asks Hannah on a date, she discovers his good guy status may be more of a facade.
Initially a sympathetic character, all-star jock Zach Dempsey (Ross Butler) tries to comfort Hannah after an upsetting exchange. To his chagrin, she later rejects him, and he enacts a revenge plot that inadvertently cuts off the one source of encouragement still keeping Hannah afloat.
Things seem promising when Hannah seeks refuge at a poetry group until Ryan Shaver (Tommy Dorfman) exploits her vulnerability for his own gain.
9. Justin (Again)
Tape nine goes back to Justin, whose failure to intervene in a harrowing situation rattles Hannah to her core. (In the book, this tape is dedicated to Clay).
10. Sherry (Jenny)
Kind-hearted cheerleader Sherry (Ajiona Alexus) — originally named Jenny in the book — offers Hannah a ride home after a party, but both girls are left reeling after a small mishap turns tragic.
An increasingly despondent Hannah pushes Clay away when she needs him most, and he lets her. (In the book, this was Justin's second tape).
Haunted by her classmates' transgressions, a final, stomach-churning encounter with Bryce drives Hannah over the edge.
13. Mr. Porter
In a last-ditch attempt to salvage her life, Hannah reaches out to school guidance counselor Mr. Porter, but his reaction isn't the saving grace she'd hoped for.
Watch the story unfold in full when 13 Reasons Why premieres on Netflix March 31.