Study Guide

If I Stay Quotes

  • Mortality

    Pieces of my father's brain are on the asphalt. But his pipe is in his left breast pocket. (2.20)

    This book does not flinch from a graphic depiction of Mia's dad's death. The first line is brutal and gory, but the second line is a tragic reminder of her dad's life.

    I find Mom next. There's almost no blood on her, but her lips are already blue and the whites of her eyes are completely red, like a ghoul from a low-budget monster movie. (2.22)

    With Mom, we don't get the same humanizing touch as with Dad (remember that pipe in his pocket?). Why doesn't Mom get the same sympathetic treatment? Either way, though, it's a reminder of how fragile we are.

    One of my breasts is exposed. Embarrassed, I look away. (3.7)

    Mia learns that there is no modesty in death. The paramedics are more concerned with saving her life than with preserving her modesty.

    Grave sounds bad. Grave is where you go when things don't work out here. (5.4)

    The nurses wouldn't say the word "grave" if they knew Mia could hear them. It's another reminder to Mia of how fragile she is, and how fragile life is in general.

    "Please don't die. I can understand why you'd want to, but think about this: If you die, there's going to be one of those cheesy Princess Diana memorials at school, where everyone puts flowers and candles and notes next to your locker. […] I know you'd hate that kind of thing." (7.21)

    The sentiment behind Kim's line is repeated later, when Mia's parents talk about how you can't control your own funeral. Mia would hate this, and to her, it's very important to go out on her own terms.

    My parents aren't here. They are not holding my hand, or cheering me on. (9.11)

    This book doesn't have a spiritual view of the afterlife. There is no glowing light, or angelic parents keeping her safe. When you're dead, you're dead and gone, at least as far as we can tell. Or perhaps the issue is that because Mia's not yet dead, she isn't able to see over to the other side.

    And that's how I know. Teddy. He's gone too. (12.74)

    One of the reasons Mia gives us for staying alive is that she doesn't want to leave her little brother behind. But when she finds out he is gone, she considers dying herself. But does she think Teddy would want her to do this?

    "Let's not judge too harshly. It has to be heartbreaking to bury your child." (13.44)

    If there's a silver lining to this tragic accident, it's that Mia's parents do not have to bury her. We guess. It's kind of heartbreaking to bury anybody, though.

    "I just think that funerals are a lot like death itself. You can have your wishes, your plans, but at the end of the day, it's out of your control." (13.50)

    This is the line that explains why Mia wouldn't want a Princess Diana funeral. It's ultimately out of her control, though, unless she wakes up.

    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 that at all. (14.12)

    Mia is only making an assumption here. The one thing she learns for sure in this experience is that there is no certainty about what happens after death. Is it just us, or is she not thinking all that hard about what her choices really are?

  • Love

    It took me by surprise how much I wanted to be kissed by him, to realize that I'd thought about it so often that I'd memorized the exact shape of his lips, that I'd imagined running my finger down the cleft of his chin. (4.59)

    Is Mia in love with Adam, or is she obsessed with him? Is it possible to be obsessed with someone if you don't love them? What evidence do we have that there's truly something special between the two of them? How does Mia define love herself?

    Adam is the one I really want to see. (6.10)

    Does Mia want to see Adam because she loves him more than her own family? Or simply because he's the only one still alive?

    In books and movies, the stories always end when the two people finally have their romantic kiss. The happily-ever-after part is just assumed. (6.12)

    This is a little bit of foreshadowing to the book's final scene, when Mia wakes up as if she's Sleeping Beauty and Adam is Prince Charming. The happily-ever-after part is assumed, but it would be an incorrect assumption, as you'll know if you read the sequel.

    As I walked him out to his car, I wanted to tell him that I loved him. But it seemed like such a cliché after what we'd just done. So I waited and told him the next day. (6.51)

    Why does Mia wait to tell him? Does it matter when you say you love someone? And what makes Mia actually realize that she loves Adam?

    "You talk to her. You tell her to take all the time she needs, but to come on back. You're waiting for her." (8.28)

    If I Stay has a fairy-tale quality to it, with Mia as a Sleeping Beauty and Adam as a Prince Charming who loves her. By waiting at her bedside, he can bring her back. What is it about love that makes this kind of thing possible?

    I decided that not only would I go to his show, but for once I'd make as much of an effort to understand his world as he did mine. (9.47)

    Mia does something she wouldn't normally do because she loves Adam, even though he never asked her to. She's not doing it just to please him; she also seems to want to understand him better as a person. Or maybe she's doing it just to please him. Hard to tell.

    "The you who you are tonight is the same you I was in love with yesterday, the same you I'll be in love with tomorrow. I love that you're fragile and tough, quiet and kick-ass." (9.93)

    This line shows us that because Adam loves Mia, he wouldn't ever ask her to change. Not that he minds her stepping out of her comfort zone to do something he enjoys, but he says it wouldn't be required for her to do that.

    "So I can show her that I'm here. That someone's still here." (11.40)

    If Mia didn't have Adam, she would probably choose to die rather than be in a world without someone who loves her this much. We guess the love of her friend Kim isn't enough. Or the love of everybody else in the waiting room. Why not?

    I'd never expected to fall in love. (15.21)

    This book is full of unexpected events. Mia never expected to be in a horrible car accident, either, but we all must deal with the cards life deals us. You can try to run away from love, too, but just like death, it's not really something anyone can control.

    I felt so good that I didn't bother thinking about what was going on with me, with us. It just felt normal and right, like slipping into a hot bubble bath. (15.23)

    This quote sounds like it's about death, but it's actually about her love with Adam. Is loving Adam like dying? They're both uncontrollable events, each in their own way, and both things change a person irrevocably. Does Mia make this connection herself?

  • Art and Culture

    She has acquired a taste for classical music over the years—"it's like learning to appreciate a stinky cheese." (1.30)

    Mom has a snooty attitude toward classical music, but could the same be said for the type of rock music Mom enjoys? We're gonna go ahead and just say yes. Like mother, like daughter, it turns out.

    In my family, playing music was still more important than the type of music you played. (3.20)

    The family that plays music together, stays together. Unless they're torn apart in a terrible car accident, of course. But seriously, why is music such a binding thing for this family? Is it a special form of communication they can share?

    "I'm obsessed with music and even I don't get transported like you do." (4.56)

    Music is a common thread not just among Mia's family, but between her and Adam, too. They wouldn't have ever gone out if it were not for her love of music. Why is sharing a love of music so important?

    [Dad] says that jazz is punk for old people. (5.12)

    This is a good quote, because it's true. Both styles of music flout conventions and have performers who like to do whatever they want and explore their genres in any way they see fit. Jazz usually has less blood on stage, of course, but now we're just quibbling.

    I loved to watch him play. When he was onstage, it was like the guitar was a fifth limb, a natural extension of his body. (6.18)

    The "fifth limb" comment creates an erotic image with Adam and his guitar, making him seem very, um, masculine. Seriously, though, rocker guys with guitars—they've always been magnets.

    "I want you to play me like a cello." (6.41)

    Oh, we see how it is, Adam. The erotic quality of music continues with the "play me like a cello" scene, where Mia runs her cello bow over Adam's body. It's either romantic or ridiculous; come to think of it, romance is often kind of ridiculous, though we love it, anyway.

    I understood what it was like to merge your energy with the mob's and to absorb theirs as well. (9.71)

    Cello is a solo pursuit. A mosh pit is not. Mia steps out of her comfort zone and enjoys being in the middle of the huge group. It's a totally different type of musical experience, and a different type of communal experience, too.

    The truth was, I could no sooner quit cello cold turkey than I could stop breathing. (11.50)

    Music is part of Mia's lifeblood, and we'll see at the end of the book that cello music is what brings her back to life.

    "It just seems like your cello is part of who you are. I can't imagine you without that thing between your legs." (11.60)

    That's what she said. 

    Oh, wait. That's what he said. But okay, Gayle Forman, we get it. Music is sexy, and playing music is even sexier.

  • Identity

    Dad seemed to understand that something had changed. He'd stopped arguing and had gotten a driver's license. […] Time to grow up. (2.2)

    The teen characters don't experience much emotional growth in the book, but through flashbacks, we see the growth the adult characters go through. Dad realizes that he must staring being responsible now that he's had a second kid.

    He wasn't a jock or a most-likely-to-succeed sort. But he was cool. (4.27)

    This is one of many instances of us being told that Adam is cool. When does the author show us Adam's coolness? What makes him cool? Is being a jock or a most-likely-to-succeed sort not cool? Why or why not?

    I chose a long black skirt and a maroon short-sleeved sweater. Plain and simple. My trademark, I guess. (4.43)

    Mia believes herself to be "plain and simple," and that never changes. Perhaps she is plain and simple because her parents are the opposite. She doesn't do it out of rebellion; that's just who she is.

    [Mom] didn't care that people called her a bitch. "It's just another word for feminist," she told me with pride. (7.30)

    Mom is very confident in her rocker-chick persona, and she hopes it will rub off on her daughter. Does Mia actually take after her mother, despite the fact that she doesn't think she does?

    "People believe what they want to believe." (7.39)

    Kim is talking about her own and Mia's reputations as goody-goodies. They've cultivated that image, and they can take advantage of it to skip school whenever they want. So what are they actually, underneath those goody-goody personas?

    She must have to work hard to keep her nails so pretty. I admire that. (8.27)

    That's what you want in a nurse—a good manicure. Maybe we're supposed to think that because the nurse has good nails, it means that she's very clean and healthy and fastidious in general.

    I didn't feel like I belonged with my family, and now I didn't feel like I belonged with Adam, except unlike my family, who was stuck with me, Adam had chosen me, and this I didn't understand. (9.46)

    The differences in identity build tension in Mia's life, because she doesn't understand how people who are dissimilar could possibly like one another. It's not an uncommon thought for a teenager to have.

    "You planning on impersonating one of us?" (9.57)

    Mom says "us," clearly labeling her daughter as one of "them," that is, an uncool not-rock chick. Mia can wear a costume, but it will just be on the surface, at least as far as Mom is concerned. Okay, Mom.

    "Hell, you're one of the punkest girls I know, no matter who you listen to or what you wear." (9.93)

    Mia spends a lot of time telling us that Adam and her parents are cool, but here is Adam saying Mia is cool, just not using that exact word. Seriously, though, folks, what does cool mean, and why is it so important to these characters?

    Even though you wouldn't think it, the cello didn't sound half bad with all those guitars. In fact, it sounded pretty amazing. (16.61)

    The Labor Day party is the moment when Mia realizes she doesn't have to change herself to fit in. Her different personality, represented by the cello, can complement the personalities of others just fine.

  • Family

    I'd actually rather go off with my family. (1.41)

    Mia tells us in the first chapter that she'd rather "go off" with her family instead of be with her friends, foreshadowing her own dilemma about whether she should "go off" into death with them later rather than stay with her friends.

    I concentrate on the notes, imagining myself playing, feeling grateful for this chance to practice, happy to be in the warm car with my sonata and my family. (2.15)

    Mia loves music, so the fact that she puts family and music on the same level shows us that she loves her family, too.

    We are like Humpty Dumpty and all these king's horses and all these king's men cannot put us back together again. (3.10)

    Mia's family is permanently broken by the car accident, and it will never be the same. She'll never again have those warm feelings she had listening to music in the car with them.

    I look nothing like the rest of my family. They are all blond and fair and I'm like their negative image, brown hair and dark eyes. […] Sometimes I did feel like I came from a different tribe. (3.19)

    We are often told how different Mia is from the rest of her family. If she feels like she never fit in, why would she want to die with them? And why exactly does she feel so different from her family? Is this a real problem, or is this just flimsy teenage angst? (As opposed to legit teenage angst, naturally.)

    Maybe it was the blond wig, but this was the first time I ever thought I actually looked like any of my immediate family. (9.60)

    One reason Mia feels so different is that she looks different from the rest of her family. Not all the differences are superficial in this way, but it's enough to make Mia feel like an outsider. Seriously, though, this girl is actually freaking out because she looks a little different from Mom and Pop. Perspective, Mia. Get some.

    Mom always said that it was because Teddy saw me first, and because I cut his cord, that somewhere deep down he thought I was is mother. (12.110)

    Mia cares about Teddy more than her parents because he is like a son more than a little brother. This is why the book draws out his fate. We're told that there's nothing worse than a parent burying their child, and Mia losing Teddy is like losing a child.

    "If they wanted to claim their son, why didn't they respect the life he chose to live? How come they never came to visit? Or supported his music?" (13.43)

    These are all things Mia's family does for her, and it's why she loves her family. She doesn't love them just because she is related to them. She loves them because they support each other.

    There's something comforting in that. To go down as a family. No one left behind. (13.65)

    Mia's family is the type to stick together, maybe even in death. Do you think Mia's parents would actually want her to die with them? Or would they want her to keep on going?

    Years later, shortly after his daughter was born, Henry called our house one night in tears. "I get it now," he told Dad. (14.32)

    Henry doesn't understand what it's like to have a family until he has one. Has he never read a book or seen a movie before? Yeah, we know: this sort of thing happens all the time.

    "You still have a family," she whispers. (16.17)

    Kim reminds Mia that her friends can be like family. Oh, and all those aunts, uncles, and grandparents waiting for her in the waiting room? Mia's family is huge.

  • Choices

    "Do you think she decides?"

    "Decides what?"

    Gramps looked uncomfortable. He shuffled his feet. "You know? Decides," he whispered. (9.1-9.3)

    It takes nine chapters before the element of choice between life or death comes up. If Gran and Gramps hadn't had this conversation, would the idea have been planted in Mia's head?

    How am I supposed to decide this? How can I possibly stay without Mom and Dad? How can I leave without Teddy? Or Adam? (9.15)

    This line sets up the stakes for the book. If Mia loses Teddy, or if she doesn't get to see Adam, she might choose to die. But what is she waiting for, really? What is her thought process? Why does she need to see Adam? Is it to see if her feelings are real? To see if his feelings are real?

    Why had [Adam] fallen for me? It didn't make sense. (9.46)

    Not all the choices in the book are life-or-death ones. People make choices about who they date and hang out with, and Mia, who thinks she is an awkward weirdo, has no idea why super-cool Adam would choose her. As Dad later says, "sometimes the choices make you," so maybe it was fate?

    "You don't have to choose one or the other, at least not as far as I'm concerned." (10.89)

    Kim patiently explains to Mia that she doesn't have to choose between her best friend and her boyfriend. They are not mutually exclusive, and she can have both. Mia's choice of life and death will not be that easy, because those two things are mutually exclusive.

    Did I want to go? And I did. More than anything. (11.70)

    Mia has another big choice to make in the book: music or Adam. She wants to go to music camp "more than anything," which gives you a hint as to what she will pick if she ever must choose between her cello and her man.

    Dad was wrong. It's true you might not get to control your funeral, but sometimes you do get to choose your death. (13.65)

    The important word here is "sometimes." Mia is a rare case. If your brains are splattered across the pavement, like her dad's were, there is no choice. Mia likes to complain about having this choice, but maybe her dad, for example, would have actually liked to have the chance to choose life instead of death.

    Did Mom and Dad decide? (14.14)

    It's unlikely that Mom and Dad got to decide, because their end was so violent. They probably wouldn't have chosen such an awful way to go.

    Why can't someone else decide this for me? Why can't I get a death proxy? (14.16)

    Choosing between life and death is a hard one for Mia, but would she really want someone else to decide it for her? Her parents did not get a choice.

    "Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you." (14.78)

    This is sage wisdom from Dad, and it can be applied to every choice Mia makes (or doesn't make) in the book. Life vs. death. Adam vs. music. Chocolate vs. peanut butter. Which choices does she make, and which choices make her?

    "Life might take you down different roads. But each of you gets to decide which one to take." (15.76)

    Mom is giving Mia a pep talk, but her word choice reminds us that Mia isn't the only one making choices. Adam is making choices, too. (Go figure.) Would he choose Mia over his musical career if he had to?

  • Supernatural

    I edge closer and now I know that it's not Teddy lying there. It's me. (2.25)

    The light supernatural aspect is introduced to us in Chapter Two, but Mia never seems all that shocked by her out-of-body experience. Perhaps she's watched a lot of daytime TV, so she's prepared. Anyway, once faced with the reality that she can see herself, she accepts it.

    Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this. Am I dead? (3.1-3.3)

    Mia is spectral in appearance, but she isn't quite a ghost. She is stuck between life and death, in a strange invisible state.

    The helicopter hits an air pocket and by all rights it should make me queasy. But I don't feel anything, at least the me who's a bystander here does not. And the me on the stretcher doesn't seem to feel anything, either. (4.15)

    We slowly start to learn some of the rules for Mia's supernatural state. For example, she cannot feel anything in her spectral form. She's not a body.

    Am I a ghost? Could I transport myself to a beach in Hawaii? (5.14)

    Mia begins to question what she can and cannot do in her invisible form, and she tests the limits of her powers, if you can call them that. She'll soon learn that she is quite powerless. But could she walk to the airport and board a plane to Hawaii? Can she breathe underwater? There are a lot of things we don't know.

    I walk into the wall, imagining that I'll float through it and come out the other side. Except that what happens when I walk into the wall is that I hit a wall. (5.17)

    Because Mia doesn't say "ouch," we can assume that hitting the wall doesn't hurt her. Ghosts don't have nerve endings.

    All day long, I've been imagining Adam's arrival, and in my fantasy, I rush to greet him, even though he can't see me and even though, from what I can tell so far, it's nothing like that movie Ghost, where you can walk through your loved ones so that they feel your presence. (10.8)

    Mia must not have been paying attention to Ghost, because that never happens in that movie. Maybe it was Ghostbusters. Oh, that's a thought for a cool book: If I Stay and Ghostbusters. Sort of like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, only not. We totally think Bill Murray could knock some sense into Ghost-Mia.

    He is waiting for Kim but I also like to think he's looking for me. (10.12)

    Adam is looking for a sign of Mia in the sky, showing that he is either religious or superstitious, or maybe just "Oregon spiritual." Perhaps he believes he'll see a cloud that looks like her.

    By now I've figured out that I don't have any supernatural abilities. (11.2)

    Except eavesdropping on everyone around her and leaving her body. Clearly, Mia was aiming higher.

    Of course, I know almost everything that Kim is telling me, but there is no way she'd know that. (16.7)

    Will Mia reveal the truth to Adam and Kim when she wakes up? She has proof that she had an out-of-body experience, since she listened to conversations these people had far away from her body. Mia should go on a daytime talk show and make millions. Or maybe the rules go that you can't remember that kind of thing when you finally wake up.

    My prebirth years aren't entirely blank. (16.8)

    This weird confession is never explained, but Mia believes she was present in events in her parents' lives that happened before she was born. Perhaps this is the explanation for why she can leave her body when she is near death. She's always had a power like this.

  • Friendship

    Maybe it was because we were too alike. (7.22)

    Many people who are too alike start off as enemies before becoming friends, but sometimes they start off as friends and become enemies, like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

    I was caught off guard by how intensely I already hated her. (7.25)

    The road to friendship with Kim is a rough one. Perhaps both girls recognize in the other traits they don't like about themselves?

    When we got older, we liked to joke that we were so glad we had that fistfight. […] When else were two girls like us going to come to blows? (7.32)

    Like good friends, Mia and Kim are able to look back at this embarrassing moment in their lives and laugh about it. (Seriously, though—a fistfight? Is that how the young 'uns are finding friends these days?)

    We were friends, just as everyone had assumed all along that we would be. (7.35)

    Sometimes other people know better than you do. People seem pretty invested in Mia's life and all of her choices, including which classmates she should and should not naturally like. Looks like Mia's a pretty lucky girl—even if she doesn't realize it.

    I expected the three of us to become the best of friends. I expected Adam to love everyone I loved as much as I did. (10.72)

    Because Mia and Kim are so similar, she expects Kim to love Adam, and vice-versa. But Mia and Kim do have differences. This is one of them. Why is it that Kim doesn't like Adam as much as Mia does?

    "You're two of the most important people in my life." (10.88)

    Here Mia puts Kim on the same level as Adam, but we'll later see that while she would stay alive for Adam, Mia would die if Kim were the only one waiting for her. Oh, well. True love.

    The funny thing was, I never really bought into Kim's notion that they were somehow bound together through me—until just now when I saw her half carrying him down the hospital corridor. (10.94)

    Just as Mia attends Adam's shows because she loves him, Kim goes to Adam and takes him to the hospital because she loves Mia as her best friend. Kim doesn't do this for Adam's sake. She does it because she knows that's what Mia would want.

    "Now I get why you and Mia are such peas in a pod. A pair of Cassandras." (11.26)

    Cassandra is the Greek version of Debbie Downer, only with psychic powers. The idea is that Kim and Mia somehow understand things better than others do. Is that the case? How so?

    Now she's here acting like his best friend. That's the power of the scene, I guess. (12.3)

    The music scene brings people together because if you the like the same kind of music, then maybe you have other kinds of things in common, too. Adam would never have fallen for Mia if she didn't love music, and he is friends with rock chick Brooke because they know each other professionally.

    That's how I know Kim will be okay. (16.12)

    Here we see that Mia would be fine dying and leaving Kim to grieve. She knows her best friend is strong enough to make it without her. But Mia never has the same thought regarding Adam. Is Adam weaker than Kim? Or what's the deal?