If I Stay


Gayle Forman

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There’s no nice way to say what happened to Mia’s family. They pretty much got totaled. Her family was in a car accident, and her mother and father and brother are dead. Mia’s not dead yet; she’s in a coma. She’s thinking about her life and seeing her future and her past. And deciding if she wants to stay or go, live or die. It’s a tough choice.

There’s a lot to consider:

  • There’s grandma and grandpa who love Mia dearly and are in the hospital lobby.
  • There’s Mia’s boyfriend, Adam, lead singer of ‘Shooting Star’ a local band getting noticed in Oregon where she lives. Adam begs and pleads. “Please, please, please, please. . . . stay.”
  • If she did wake up, if she did stay. . . would she go to Julliard in New York and leave all that was left of everything she’d ever known? The country house, snowy hot cocoa days with her family, studying classical music, and Adam, her first love. . .
  • The cello--the extra organ in Mia’s body, a large extended shape in Mia’s whole being. Adam puts Yo-Yo-Ma in Mia’s cold ears. . . does she hear?

How can she let herself hear sweet sounds when Teddy, her little brother, is dead? Like no- more-Spongebob-Squarepants or banging-on-dad’s-drums forever dead.

How can she let herself breathe when ex-rocker, “Dead Moon” Mom is dead? And “Father knows best” English teacher Dad is dead?

Will she let herself live?

Booktalk by Mercedes Hubbard

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. After the initial tragedy, the reader learns more about Mia’s parents. What does Mia have in common with her father? Her mother?
  2. Mia and Adam have different musical interests. Mia loves classical music and plays the cello. Adam plays guitar in a popular rock band. What draws them together?
  3. Discuss the meanings of “sacrifice” and of “choice.” How are they different? How are they similar? What are some of the sacrifices and choices made throughout the novel?
  4. Kim says to Mia, “You still have a family.” What did this mean to you? What is a family?
  5. How would your response to the story be different if Mia had died?
  6. Do you consider Mia and Adam a mature couple? Why or why not? Do you think Mia and Adam will continue their relationship? What does their future hold?
  7. Forman makes extended use of flashback to tell the story. How do the flashback scenes help us understand Mia’s thoughts about living or dying?
  8. Could the story have been titled If I Leave? Why or why not?

[From Penguin Books for Young Readers]

If you liked this book, try

  • When You Left by Gayle Formanli
  • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater


Listen to Yo Yo Ma or other cellists.