Meet the gay geeky high school genius who won top prize at the world’s most prestigious science fair with a revolutionary test for early signs of pancreatic cancer.
Andraka organizes his memoir around two main strands. One is the string of middle and high school science-fair triumphs in various fields leading to and beyond his 2012 win at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The other is his progress from “What is wrong with me?” to inner acceptance and public coming out. For the former, he points to supportive parents and sibling competition as initial influences, and the death of a revered family friend from pancreatic cancer is the impulse for his interest in finding a cheap and reliable diagnostic test. For the latter strand, he charts a familiar course, in which growing confusion and self-doubt exacerbated by bullying in middle school led to a suicide attempt—but culminated in an announcement and enough self-possession to cope with the resultant flack. Having described his major projects and research before and after 2012 with the glib clarity of a true science-fair veteran, he leaves off partway through his junior year with a stimulating flurry of further notions. He then tacks on ten low-tech science experiments, several math tricks, and quick leads to anti-bullying, LGBTQ, and suicide-awareness resources.
Though Andraka’s test and other inventions remain years away from real-world use, his evident delight in science and his rocky adolescence furnish plenty of role-model material—and not just for STEM savants. (Memoir. 11-15)