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.
Life and Death Theme Icon

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. It is in this state that she reflects on her past life experiences, and how they have influenced her as a person and brought her to this moment.

Mia vacillates between wanting to stay behind, and wanting to move on into death along with her Mom, Dad, and brother Teddy. Leaving the world of the living would mean that she would be with her parents, and would not have to live with the grief of their deaths. It would also mean that she would not have to face the inevitable tough decisions of life, such as whether or not to pursue cello in New York City, away from her boyfriend Adam. However, if she stays alive, she will be able to continue to cherish the memories she shared with her family, and these experiences will forever shape her future.

Ultimately, Mia makes the decision to stay behind, and to come to terms with the sacrifices and rewards of continuing to live and be the sole survivor of the car crash. Mia’s choice is a metaphor for the fact that making difficult decisions is a part of life and a part of having agency over one’s own life. Conversely, part of taking agency and making these tough decisions is understanding when it is time to make the choice to let something go. While Mia is tragically forced to make a life-or-death decision at a younger age than most, her choice is a response to the universal question everyone must face at some point: how to experience the joys in life, while coping with the sorrows that inevitably accompany them, and how to carry the memories of what has been lost along the way while continuing to move forward.

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Life and Death ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Life and Death appears in each chapter of If I Stay. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Life and Death Quotes in If I Stay

Below you will find the important quotes in If I Stay related to the theme of Life and Death.
9:23 AM Quotes

Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker)
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
4:47 PM Quotes

I didn’t mind. I was excited about a baby. And I knew that Carnegie Hall wasn’t going anywhere. I’d get there someday.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Teddy Hall
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
9:06 PM Quotes

And that’s how I know. Teddy. He’s gone, too.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Teddy Hall
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

When Teddy slid out, he was head up, facing the ceiling, so that the first thing he saw was me.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Teddy Hall
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
10:40 PM Quotes

“In my ideal scenario, my bighearted pushover husband and I die quickly and simultaneously when we’re ninety-two years old…Mia plays at our funeral. If, that is, we can tear her away from the New York Philharmonic.”

Related Characters: Kat Hall (Mom) (speaker), Mia Hall, Denny Hall (Dad)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

Dad was wrong. It’s true you might not get to control your funeral, but sometimes you do get to choose your death.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Denny Hall (Dad)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:
2:48 AM Quotes

Sleep without dreams. I’ve heard people talk about the sleep of the dead. Is that what death would feel like? The nicest, warmest, heaviest never-ending nap? If that’s what it’s like, I wouldn’t mind. If that’s what dying is like, I wouldn’t mind at all.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker)
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

“It’s okay,” he tells me. “If you want to go. Everyone wants you to stay. I want you to stay more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life…But that’s what I want and I could see why it might not be what you want. So I just wanted to tell you that I understand if you go. It’s okay if you have to leave us. It’s okay if you want to stop fighting.”

Related Characters: Gramps (speaker), Mia Hall
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’d played that part of my life out. It was time. I didn’t even think twice about it, in spite of what Gramps or Henry might think. Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you. Does that make any sense?”

Related Characters: Denny Hall (Dad) (speaker), Gramps, Henry
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:
7:16 AM Quotes

“I can lose you like that if I don’t lose you today. I’ll let you go. If you stay.”

Related Characters: Adam Wilde (speaker), Mia Hall
Page Number: 231
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Cello, Punk Rock and Classical Music
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis: