If I Stay Themes
by Gayle Forman

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If I Stay Themes

Gayle Forman's If I Stay analyzes the life of one seventeen-year-old Mia Hall, a teenager and accomplished cellist who lives in Oregon with her family, all of whom (except Mia) were killed in a car accident while traveling to visit friends. The major themes include time, family, and friendships.

After the car accident, Mia (who has suffered a traumatic head injury) has an out-of-body experience in which she watches herself and her family be transported by a team of paramedics, who discusses their conditions. Her parents die instantly, and her younger brother, Teddy, dies in the hospital.

The Fluidity of Time

During this paranormal experience, Mia's narration undertakes flashbacks which reflect on select experiences in her life before the car crash. Meanwhile, the nurse tells her family that the choice to live or die is Mia's. Her parents were punk rockers who reformed upon having their second child, Teddy. Her grandparents (who visit her in the hospital) grieve the loss of Mia's parents, and her grandfather speaks to Mia's unconscious body to tell her that he would understand if she chose to die.

The way that Mia is able to seamlessly conjure vivid experiences with her parents and grandparents as a child suggests that time is fluid. Mia remembers one specific occasion in which she and her parents were in a gambling casino, and Mia could not tell whether it was day or night. She likens this environment to that of the ICU. Because environments without time are the exception, marking the passing of time is a primary characteristic of experiencing organic life.

Friends as Family

As Mia struggles with the thought of living in a world in which she has suffered so much loss, she has all but made up her mind to die until Adam, her boyfriend and also a musician, gives her a pair of headphones so that she might hear the music of renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. What ultimately pulls Mia out of her depression and inspires her to conquer her fear of living in a world without her family is that Mia eventually considers that her family really includes her many friends (such as the dozens who visit her in the ICU).

Overall, the beautifully written coming-of-age novel suggests that time is imperceptible as it passes, but exercises a profound influence on life. The novel also demonstrates how one's close friends (such as Mia's boyfriend Adam) are indeed a part of one's family.