Monday is the day that Mr. Daniels goes over new vocabulary words. It's not a bad lesson for Ally, since she can usually remember the words by making up mind movies. She explains to the reader that her one rule in school is to say she doesn't know if she's asked a question, as this eventually makes teachers stop asking. Today, however, Ally's hand shoots into the air when Mr. Daniels asks for a volunteer to explain the difference between "alone" and "lonely."
While Ally doesn't offer any judgment calls on her mind movies, it's important to point out that using mind movies to remember words like this is a skill that often has to be taught to people who don't think visually, like Ally does. This gives another example of a way in which Ally actually struggles less than her peers, but just doesn't know it.
Ally's not sure she actually wants to answer, but she feels like an expert on those words. She feels as though Mr. Daniels can see right into her lonely heart and says that being alone can be a choice and isn't always bad but being lonely isn't a choice. She says the worst is feeling lonely in a room full of people.
The answer that Ally gives reminds the reader of just how lonely Ally is in her life, where she's shut off from having friends and participating in normal activities because she can't read.
Mr. Daniels looks sad and Ally can barely remember what she even said. She hears Mr. Daniels saying her name, which calls her back to the present, and he says that Ally deserves a trophy for the best answer of the year. Ally can't understand why he'd say that and feels like she has to leave, so she asks to go to the bathroom. Shay shakes her head and though she says nothing, Ally knows what she would say. Ally feels as though she did something wrong, even though she answered right, and thinks she'd be a wooden nickel if she were a coin.
This feeling of failure, even though Ally gave a perfect answer, speaks to the power of the narratives that Ally has spent her life hearing about herself. In other words, Ally has heard that she's dumb so many times, she now struggles to believe that she's actually done something well. This illustrates the consequences of unidentified dyslexia to a person's self-esteem.