If I Stay Themes and Analysis 🎻

‘If I Stay’ reflects life and choice, and the book creates an analogy of how life is when one is faced with making just one choice that would change their entire life.

If I Stay

Gayle Forman

If I Stay’ is enriched with themes that perfectly describe how pain, suffering, and love define choice. ‘If I Stay’ is about 17-year-old Mia Hall, who faces a tragedy that leaves her family dead and makes her have an out-of-body experience. Mia realizes she has to choose between leaving or staying.

If I Stay Themes and Analysis

Themes in If I Stay


Pain is a primary theme that reoccurs throughout the entire novel. In the book, Mia faces every form of pain, from emotional to physical, and she knew the pain was going to reshape her view of the world if she chose to stay. Mia’s final decision was nearly influenced by the pain she felt.


Throughout the ‘If I Stay,’ one theme stands out the most, choice. The book focuses on choices made due to circumstances. Throughout the novel, Mia faced choosing between having to stay or leave, and though her pain was immeasurable, she still thought about how it was not as bad as she would have expected; in the end, Mia made a choice, one that changed her future.

Transcendence Into Adulthood

‘If I Stay’ shows the transcendence of Mia from childhood into adulthood. Mia discovered she would grow up quickly from a very young age before tragedy struck. Mia became scared to even more after the accident because she knew she would have to face the world unshielded by her parents.

Life and Death

Life and death are reoccurring themes in ‘If I Stay.’ Mia had to accept the idea of life and death as she only had one choice to make out of two. Though death sounded better to her, life also felt necessary to Mia as she understood she had to live her life for her family and herself.

Analysis of Key Moments

  1. Mia, her brother, and her parents decide to make a trip to Henry and Willow’s place after a snowfall makes them have a free day.
  2. On their journey, Mia’s family has an accident due to their car swerving off the lane.
  3. Mia wakes up thrown far from the accident scene. She discovers her mother and father are dead, and she is not in her body.
  4. Following her physical on the brink of death body to the hospital, Mia meets her extended family and watches them take care of her.
  5. Mia gets worried about her little brother Teddy and tries all she can to see him. She gets scared as the thought he might be dead clouds her mind.
  6. Throughout her stay in the hospital, Mia reminisces about how her relationship with Adam transcended and the events in her life that made her feel happy, sad, scared, and loved.
  7. Mia discovers Teddy is dead, and she makes up her mind to leave.
  8. Mia almost leaves when Adam comes into her room and begs her to stay. In a flash, Mia imagines how her future will be if she stayed and, in a moment, she finds herself back in her body.

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

Throughout the novel, Gayle Forman uses the first-person perspective in writing as every action is observed by Mia. However, at a point in the book, Mia narrates from an omnipresent third-person perspective because of her out-of-body experience. Sentences are fluid throughout the book, and there is a clear transition between the past and present narration as the reader notices a change in tone and action with each switch made. ‘If I Stay’ employs the heavy use of figures of speech, with the most predominant being simile, hyperbole, personification, and metaphor.

An instance of simile is used by Gayle when Mia describes how she felt in her family and how she felt with Adam.

If I felt like a fish out of water in my family, I felt like a fish on Mars in Adam’s circle.

The first phrase is a cliché Mia used in describing how she felt different from the rest of her family. The second goes deeper to quantify the extent of how she felt with Adam.

Analysis of Symbols


The Cello represents an integral part of Mia’s life, and it gave Mia her definition of the world. From her school life to her relationships, Mia got her experience of life from the Cello. Mia felt out of place because of the Cello which was a classical instrument, a far cry from the lifestyle of her parents. Mia’s relationship with Adam also centered on her playing the Cello as they only met due to her music.


What does the Cello stand for in ‘If I Stay?’

The Cello represents an important part of Mia’s life, music and it defines Mia’s past present and future.

What is the main theme of ‘If I Stay?’

Choice is the main theme of ‘If I Stay‘ because Mia was faced with ultimately having to choose between staying or leaving.

What point of view is the book ‘If I Stay?’

‘If I Stay‘ is a first-person point of view book with the observer of all the action being Mia alone.

What instrument does Mia play in ‘If I Stay?’

Mia plays the Cello in ‘If I Stay.’

Does Teddy survive the accident in ‘If I Stay?’

No, he doesn’t.

Joshua Ehiosun
About Joshua Ehiosun
Joshua is an undying lover of literary works. With a keen sense of humor and passion for coining vague ideas into state-of-the-art worded content, he ensures he puts everything he's got into making his work stand out. With his expertise in writing, Joshua works to scrutinize pieces of literature.
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