Life is math.
We know this because mathematics can reduce anything to a system of equations. Sometimes the solutions tell us things that seem “intuitively obvious.” This means that we do not need math to figure them out. For example, the Parking Problem.
Some mathematicians at a university wanted to know how people could minimize the time it takes to find a parking spot and get into a store. Here is what they found: The optimal strategy is to take the first space you see and then walk.
When I told my father about this, he asked why it took mathematicians at a university to figure it out. I explained that while the conclusions seems intuitively obvious, it runs counter to standard human behavior. Most people will not take the first space the come across. Instead, the will seek out a better, theoretical spot that could be more convenient, incorrectly believing it will save them time.
I used to think people did this because they’re bad at math, but actually it’s because they’re gamblers. They pass up good opportunities that are right in front of them in exchange for imagined improvements that almost never materialize. This is why I trust math and I do not trust people. Math makes better sense.
This is one of Colin Fisher’s many observations in his Notebook, a catalog of facts, observations, and notations dating back to his pre-school days. Colin has been diagnosed with high-functioning Aspergers Syndrome and that translates to a variety of quirks which place him firmly on the outskirts of his school’s social spectrum. He’s bullied by some, ridiculed by others, ignored by most, and befriended by few, but Colin honestly doesn’t care. He enjoys school and enjoys making observations of his peers even more. Even his main tormentor, Wayne Connelly, is worthy of consideration. This turns out to be for the bully’s benefit after an incident in the cafeteria–one involving an interrupted birthday party and a gunshot–leaves Wayne the prime suspect. Only Colin, the one person with the most reason to want Wayne out of school, believes his innocence. Only Colin starts asking the right questions to figure out what really happened, just like one of his idols, Sherlock Holmes, would.
Especially given that I believe Sherlock Holmes (had he been a real person) probably could have been diagnosed with some form of Autism, Aspergers, or other sociodevelopmental syndrome, I think Colin is this generation’s Sherlock. You may not like him, but you’ll empathize as he tries to safely navigate the perils of high school. You’ll cheer each small victory and you’ll smile when people find him as baffling as he finds them. Every character in the book became intriguing when seen through Colin’s eyes and his relationships with his parents, his younger brother, and his peers involve interesting and unusual dynamics. Everyone around him has to take Colin for what he is or leave him, but either way it makes very little difference to Colin. His very indifference made him even more fascinating.
I read this book all in one day… in fact, often while I was supposed to be doing other things. I fell in love with Colin from page one. I can actually pinpoint the moment, because it happened at the end of his first Notebook observation, one centering on the inexplicable schooling habits of hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos. In it, Colin states the following:
My name is Colin Fischer. I’m fourteen years old and weigh 121 lbs. Today is my first day of high school.
I have 1,365 days left until I’m finished.
The tenor of the statements, a simple listing of facts, is a thing of brilliance. Possibly without even realizing it, Colin is doing what every other kid facing their looming high school career is doing: dreading the trials to come and counting the days until they don’t have to face them anymore. Colin’s observations are intelligent, thorough, and thought provoking and some of his references (and those of the narrator) would have left me in the dust if not for the very handy footnotes. Not having an overly analytical mind myself, I find books like this mesmerizing if only for letting me peek into an entirely different worldview. It’s probably why I studied psychology in college; trying to figure out how different people think intrigues me just as much as it puzzles Colin.
Colin Fischer is out today! Do yourself a favor and go get the book now. It’s worth it. I’m hoping the implied promise of a sequel holds true. In fact, I’m hoping for a long, drawn out series of books revolving around Colin. I don’t think I will ever get tired of diving into his head.
Erica’s Rating: 5/5