Study Guide

If I Stay Family

By Gayle Forman

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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.

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