If I Stay | Study Guide

Gayle Forman

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If I Stay | 8:17 A.M. | Summary



Denny offers to let Mia drive, but she refuses. Instead, Denny drives. Denny only got his driver's license once he found out Kat was pregnant with their second child. He got his teaching license around the same time. Before that, he was a professional musician and rode a bicycle everywhere. With a second child on the way, Denny knew he had to become more responsible.

The family argues about what music to listen to. Kat wants to listen to the news, Teddy to SpongeBob SquarePants, and Mia to classical music, but she'll settle on Shooting Star, her boyfriend's band. Denny puts on NPR so they can listen to the news, but he lets Teddy listen to SpongeBob on a Discman (a portable CD player). When the news is over, Denny puts on a classical station. The station is playing Beethoven's Cello Sonata no. 3, which Mia is supposed to be working on later that day. Mia concentrates on the notes, grateful for the chance to practice, even virtually; she is happy to be in a warm car with her sonata and her family. She closes her eyes.

The car has been involved in an accident. The radio is still working. The car has been torn apart, hit by a four-ton pickup truck going 60 miles per hour. It plowed into the passenger side of the Halls' car with tremendous force. The gas from the car is on fire in the road. There was a great deal of noise— grinding, popping, exploding, scraping—but finally, the only sound is Beethoven's Cello Sonata no. 3.

At first, Mia figures everything is fine because she can still hear the radio. She is standing in a ditch by the roadside but doesn't see her family in the car. She looks for them, figuring they were thrown from the car like she was. She sees her father first. His brains are on the asphalt, yet his pipe is still in his pocket. Mia sees her mother next. She has almost no blood on her, but her lips are blue and the whites of her eyes are red.

Mia can't find Teddy. She remembers losing him once when they were out together. She was really upset but also grateful when she finally found him. Mia sees a body she thinks is Teddy's, but then notices a bracelet on the body's hand. It has cello and guitar charms, a bracelet Adam gave her. It's her. She's bleeding, and her leg is askew.

Mia thinks this can't be happening. They were simply a family out on a drive. When she pinches herself, it doesn't hurt. She screams at herself to wake up, as if from a nightmare, but she can't.

She hears the music. The Mia that is standing by the side of the road starts fingering the notes, playing an air cello. Finally, the music stops and the sound of sirens fills the air.


Author Gayle Forman doesn't tell the reader whether Mia is alive or whether she is a ghost or an angel. However, the fact that none of her other family members are with her seems to imply that she is the only one left alive. Denny, whose brains are missing in big chunks, seems likely to be dead. The fact that he is not with her implies they aren't in the same place.

The radio continuing to play after the car crash is a powerful symbol of Mia's life and the importance of the cello. Despite tragedy, the music plays on. Life can go on. Mia takes her mind off the carnage in front of her by fingering the cello part of the concerto. The cello is there for her.

Mia looks for Teddy but doesn't find him. The reader may wonder whether this means he's alive or dead. The author builds suspense by not telling Mia or the reader what has happened to him.

The chapter doesn't specify where the Hall family was sitting except that Denny was driving. Presumably, Kat was sitting in the front passenger seat. Because Mia was discussing driving, she may have been sitting in the back seat behind her father. The car was hit on the passenger side. The rear seats in a car, assuming all occupants are wearing seat belts, are safer than the front seats. Therefore, Mia's decision not to drive likely saved her life.

Right before the crash occurs, Mia is concentrating on the music and how happy she is to be on a drive with her family. Mia realizes how lucky she is to have a family she loves right before tragedy strikes. Whether this makes her appreciate it more or makes it more difficult to live afterward remains to be seen.

Mia's recollection of losing Teddy once and finding him again shows that she feels responsible for her younger brother. They are really close and losing Teddy would be a blow to Mia.

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