Mia is a talented cellist who plans to pursue a career in classical cello music. She fell in love with the instrument as a child, initially due to its “humanlike” shape, and has played it ever since. While her parents are punk rockers at heart, Mia has always felt an affinity to classical music. In the novel, the cello is a symbol of what makes Mia unique, and also what makes her feel different from her parents and from Adam, who plays guitar in a rock band. The cello is what may bring her to New York City to study at Juilliard, but it will also be what will take her away from Oregon, and thus from Adam, whose band is based there. Mia also learns, however, that her cello can also be used to create harmony in her life, rather than dissonance. This is especially apparent in a symbolic scene where Mia plays her cello alongside her Dad and Adam on their guitars, and together they create a unique and “pretty amazing” sound. The power of the cello as a symbol is also illustrated in the book’s final scene—when Adam puts the headphones on Mia, it is ultimately both the music of Yo-Yo Ma and cello music’s overall meaningfulness to Mia that gives her the strength to decide to stay.
The Cello Quotes in If I Stay
I know it’s silly but I have always wondered if Dad is disappointed that I didn’t become a rock chick. I’d meant to. Then, in third grade, I’d wandered over to the cello in music class—it looked almost human to me. It looked like if you played it, it would tell you secrets, so I started playing. It’s been almost ten years now and I haven’t stopped.
Sometimes I did feel like I came from a different tribe. I was not like my outgoing, ironic dad or my tough-chick mom. And as if to seal the deal, instead of learning to play electric guitar, I’d gone and chosen the cello.
So I played. And even though you wouldn’t think it, the cello didn’t sound half bad with all those guitars. In fact, it sounded pretty amazing.
Yo-Yo Ma continues to play, and it’s like the piano and cello are being poured into my body, the same way that the IV and blood transfusions are. And the memories of my life as it was, and the flashes of it as it might be, are coming so fast and furious. I feel like I can no longer keep up with them but they keep coming and everything is colliding, until I cannot take it anymore. Until I cannot be like this one second longer.