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Literature / If I Stay

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Sometimes you make choices, and sometimes choices make you.

If I Stay is a best-selling novel by Gayle Forman. It was first published in 2009.

Mia Hall is a girl that has a pretty good life. She's a musical prodigy with a chance of getting into Julliard. However, all of that changes when she ends up comatose in a car accident that kills the rest of her family. Bizarrely, her spirit leaves her body and is able to see everything that is going on while she's in the hospital as she learns that the whether she lives or dies is completely up to her. Can she go on living in a world without her family?

It was adapted into a film starring Chloë Grace Moretz in 2014. A sequel called Where She Went was published in 2011.


This book and its film adaptation contain examples of:

  • Adventures in Comaland: The whole plot is about Mia Hall made comatose by a car accident, wandering in Comaland, deciding whether to live or go to the great beyond.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Mia in her out-of-body state, looking the same as she did before the accident. Averted with her actual body, which is tethered to a ventilator.
  • Big Sister Worship and Big Sister Instinct: Teddy and Mia were very close, especially since the former was more like her own son. Teddy's death, ultimately, hits Mia the hardest, as she promised herself to wake up so he wouldn't be alone.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mia's brother and parents are dead, but Mia chooses to keep living. She's also going to need a lot of physical therapy to recover from the injuries in the accident.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Adam's song for Mia, which he said he'd write if she ever caused him pain. Said song convinces her to stay in the living world.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mia's grandpa. He drives her to auditions and talks to her when she's in a coma.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Mia crosses it, when she finds out Teddy is dead. Losing her parents was saddening but losing Teddy hit her the hardest because he was one of her reasons for waking up, specifically so he wouldn't be alone if he survived . This almost leads a to a literal Death by Despair, as she contemplates leaving the living world to join him in the afterlife.
  • Double Standard: What Mia points out to Adam, when he gets angry about her having the chance to audition for Julliard, which isn't the same as getting accepted. As she puts it, he expects her to wait while he spends weeks, even months on the road, but doesn't want her to pursue her dreams.
  • Good Parents: Mia's parents are loving and supportive of both their children.
  • Hope Spot: There are two, when Mia's dad goes into the operating table and the fact that Teddy didn't die in the crash. However, while we (and Mia) think things'll be okay, they aren't, as her father didn't survive the operation and Teddy dies of a hemorrhage.
  • I Choose to Stay: The ending which has Mia awakening from her coma, after hearing Adam's song.
  • Jerkass Realization: Adam gets this twice. First is when he breaks up with Mia before the crash, after hearing that she got an audition to Julliard, when she points out his Double Standard view, to which he apologizes for and second is when he breaks up with her again not wanting to do a potential long-distance relationship. to which he regrets.
  • Meaningful Name: "Mia" means "bittersweet".
  • Morton's Fork: A subtle one. Regardless if Mia chooses to pass on into the afterlife or if she opts to stay in the living world, she still loses something.
  • Near-Death Clairvoyance/ Out-of-Body Experience: What happens to Mia, after the car crash, as she's left between two worlds, which gives her an awful lot to think about and much of the story is told through this view.
  • Parents as People: Denny and Kat, Mia's parents. As she notes, though they love their kids and will go the moon and back for them, they weren't ready to be parents and, in some instances, they still hold onto aspects of their lives before they had kids (i.e, Kat dressing like a teenager still), on top of being more like friends to Mia than parents.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Adam broke up with Mia before the crash because she couldn't promise to spend New Years the next year with him. When he finally talks to her in the hospital, he's in tears.
  • The Power of Rock: Adam's song for Mia is what persuades her to return to her body. Even moreso, Beethoven which album put over her ears convinces her to stay alive long enough to hear the song.
  • Shout-Out: In one of the flashbacks, Mia, Kim, and Adam are playing cups.
  • Snow Means Death: The car crash that puts the family in the hospital happens on a snowy day.
  • Switched at Birth: Discussed. Mia jokes that she thinks she was this because her family loves rock and she prefers the cello (and probably classical music by extension).
  • Undead Barefooter: If Out Of Body Experiences count as being 'undead'; the film adapation has Mia wearing everything but her shoes or socks while in her out-of-body state.
  • Wham Line: Comatose Mia to her mom's friend: "Why aren't you with Teddy?"