Based on the ending of the book, did the author intend for the reader to come away thinking they made it to freedom, or died? My students are always divided in this answer, so it got me to wondering.
I personally disagree with bethanyjohnson, in that I actually like novels without a definite ending. Such novels allow the reader to think through their own perceptions of the novel as a whole and "write" their own ending. I guess when considering this question you need to think of the prevailing mood and tone of the entire story - is a pessimistic or an optimistic ending more appropriate? Novelists that end stories in such a way invite reader participation much more than novels where all the loose ends are tied for us.
I usually hate endings of novels that leave the reader wondering what happens, however, I love the ending of the Giver. My students would discuss the ending for days if I let them. It is interesting to see how the responses change from year to year. Last year almost all of my students believed Jonas made it to safety, while the year before most of my students believed he died. What an interesting topic for discussion.
My students are the same way, they never can decide and it makes for interesting debates. I have gone back and forth between the two options. I would love to think that they escaped, but then where would they be? What is Elsewhere like? Would they be safe and taken care of? Are all societies outside theirs like this?
If they were "rescued" by their society then Jonas would be safe. Perhaps if he went back, being the Receiver, he might be able to convince his society to make some change. He has an awesome burden to bear there and it is a lot for such a young man. Would he escape again, would he educate his society about what really happens, would this society even care that "releasing" is a euphemism for death?
I suppose I can't really give an definitive answer myself, but it is interesting to ponder.