Study Guide

If I Stay Choices

By Gayle Forman

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"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?

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