If I Stay


Gayle Forman

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Themes and Colors
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
Music and Harmony Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in If I Stay, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Sacrifice and Choice

If I Stay is a novel that explores the kinds of sacrifices that inevitably accompany choices. As a teenager, Mia is at the crossroads of many major life decisions. For example, as a talented cellist, Mia has to decide whether to pursue her study of the instrument at Juilliard in New York City, or whether she will remain with her boyfriend, Adam, in the Pacific Northwest. Other characters have important choices to make as…

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Music and Harmony

The characters in If I Stay are connected by a deep love and respect for music. While a profound emotional response to music brings characters together, differences in taste and lifestyle also push them apart. Respecting the musical choices and tastes of characters in the novel therefore becomes a metaphor for accepting others for who they are, and also for accepting one’s own unique talents and tastes. This idea manifests in a motif of harmony…

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Love, Family, and Relationships

The importance of love and family is a driving force in If I Stay, as many of the choices and sacrifices made within the novel are done for the sake of loved ones. However, love can also complicate these decisions, and can sometimes be the very thing that must be sacrificed. Thus, characters in the novel must balance making decisions for the sake of love, while also understanding and learning when they must let…

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Life and Death

At its core, If I Stay is predicated on one decision: whether, after the car accident that kills her parents and brother and puts her in a coma, Mia decides to stay alive, or whether she decides to die. She is able to make this decision while in an out-of-body experience, in which she can see everything that is happening around her regarding her care in the hospital, but cannot interact with anyone or anything…

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