Study Guide

If I Stay

By Gayle Forman

If I Stay Introduction

Everyone loves a snow day. It gives you a whole twenty-four hours of free time to build snowmen, sled down hills, and make snow angels. But when Mia gets a snow day in If I Stay—say this next part in your best Hollywood movie trailer voice—It. May. Be. Her. Last.

Written by Gayle Forman, If I Stay was published in 2009. It tells the story of Mia, a girl whose entire family is wiped out in a horrible car accident. Guys, we said snow angels, not real angels. Jeez. Dead people never pay attention. Anyway, Mia survives, but only barely. Her body is in a coma, but she is able to leave her body and see how her friends and family deal with the aftermath. She's like Patrick Swayze in Ghost, but without the pottery-making skills.

Gayle Forman has half a dozen similarly named books, like I Was Here, Where She Went, and Just One Day. All of her books feature romance, melodrama, and kissing. If I Stay is no different. One of the titles we listed is a sequel to If I Stay. Can you guess which one? It's Where She Went. Where did Mia went? Er… where did she go? Well, you'll have to read that one to see what happens after the end of If I Stay.

If I Stay is the rare late-2000s young adult bestseller that doesn't deal with supernatural creatures, deadly sporting events, or weird dystopias, but it does tackle real life-or-death questions with a slightly supernatural twist. The book was popular enough to be adapted in a 2014 movie version starring Chloe Moretz.

The book follows in the tradition of classics like It's a Wonderful Life, imagining what the lives of your friends and family would be like after your own life ends. But If I Stay shows us that accidents don't wait for Christmastime. They can happen to anyone on any day of the year. So if you're interested in exploring these life-or-death questions, drive very, very carefully to your library or bookstore, and give If I Stay a shot.

What is If I Stay About and Why Should I Care?

We want a big funeral when we die. We want our coffin to be carried halfway across the city as mourners line the streets. We want thousands of people grieving inside Westminster Abbey, and about thirty million more sobbing their eyes out as they watch it live on TV. And we want Elton John to rewrite and perform one of his greatest hits in tribute to our amazing, but all-too-brief life. "Sh-sh-sh-Shmoopie and the Jets…"

Okay, we're not Princess Diana, who had the best funeral ever, but we can dream, can't we? Everyone wonders what his or her own funeral will be like. And we mean everyone, not just the goth kids. If I Stay even includes a scene in which the characters do just that. They imagine what song will play, where it will be, and how they will be buried.

The ghost-returning-to-see-what-happens type of story is a popular one. It happens to Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life. It happens to Patrick Swayze in Ghost. It even happens to Bill Murray in Scrooged. It's a timeless story, because seeing how people react to our death is the one thing we will never be able to do, unless someone figures out how to FaceTime from heaven.

If I Stay takes the fantasy a step further and asks what we might do if we could choose when we die. No, there's no Dr. Kevorkian here. It's simply a story about living and dying on your own terms, which is something we all wish for.

If I Stay Resources

Websites

If She Stayed for Just One Day
Gayle Forman's website can help you keep all her confusing book titles straight.

Movie or TV Productions

State of Grace
If I Stay went to movie theaters in an adaptation starring Chloe Grace Moretz.

Articles and Interviews

Forever Seventeen
Forman wrote for Seventeen magazine before writing 17-year-old Mia, whose accident and recovery would probably end up in Seventeen magazine, if it were real.

Cameo Role
Gayle Forman talks about producing the If I Stay movie, which was a little more involved than just her cameo appearance in the hospital waiting room.

Playing Favorites
Forman tries—and fails—to choose a favorite character in this insightful interview.

Video

Author and Actress
Forman and Chloe Moretz sit side-by-side to discuss faking playing cello and other movie tricks.

Favorite Scenes
The music scene of Eugene, Oregon—the Eugene Scene—shaped Gayle Forman's life and inspired many scenes in her book.

Audio

Not a Hyundai Sonata
Actually, we don't know what kind of car Mia was in, but we do know she was listening to Beethoven's Sonata No. 3 when the crash happened.

Back to Life
This Yo-Yo Ma song is the magical one that brings Mia back to life.

Images

Schnitzel in Lights
The Arlene Schnitzer Hall is the site of Mia and Adam's first date. We don't think they serve hot dogs.

Shark Tank
Adam wears a sharkskin suit and creepers on the first date, so he probably looks just like this guy.