I love the book. I first read it as a child, and it opened my eyes to the implications of utopian or distopian societies. Lois Lowry has tried to replicate this sort of storyline in some of her other more recent books, but has not succeeded in creating such a deep, enlightening work like The Giver. I have always believed the ending was a positive one, with Jonas and Gabe reaching another community where people live life with emotions, color, music, etc. I think some readers have a hard time with the ending because it does not tie everything up nicely. Readers are left hanging. Does Jonas actually reach Elsewhere? Or does he die? What happens to the community he left behind? Do all the memories accost the people? How do they handle it? Is the community changed forever, or do they revert back to their normal state?
There are many many unanswered questions, but the optimist in me has to believe that everyone makes out alright.
I just recently re-read this book (the first time I read it I was in the target demographic for it, and now I have read it as an adult). I loved it, both times. I should probably preface this by saying that I really like futuristic/utopic-dystopic novels to begin with, so I was already in the right area with this book.
I really like Jonas's character, and the way he is originally so trusting of the community and then eventually learns to question the world around him. I like that Lowry presents the community in a non-threatening way at first, so it lures the reader into the idea that maybe they are onto something with their formatting; until we begin to see what lies beneath, so to speak.
In the very end of the book, I'll admit, I was a little confused at first. I thought Jonas and Gabe died, and that the sled was just a hallucination brought on by cold and hunger, and that they had really drifted off to endless sleep. Then I read the interview questions with Lowry at the end of my book, and saw that she left it open-ended on purpose for people to draw their own conclusions, but that she sees it as a positive, death-free ending herself. So I started to imagine that they really could have made it to "Elsewhere," and that they really could begin life over again.