Suzanne Collins has stated that she got the idea for The Hunger Games from flicking through the channels of a television in a hotel room.
On one side there was a reality TV show. It disturbed her to see that people could be humiliated for our entertainment.
On another channel, news from the Iraq War was being broadcast. The shock and awe aspects desensitizing viewers from the fact that those were real people, with real thoughts and feelings, and real families around them.
The two disturbing images fused into her imagination and The Hunger Games were born.
With that in mind, it's somewhat missing the point to reduce the whole story arc into a tale about a teenage love triangle. In Mockingjay, that sub-plot really does take a back-seat. We are looking at a much bigger picture than that.
Instead the focus is much more upon what Wilfred Owen called 'war, and the futility of war.'
The arena itself always had been a metaphor for the much wider condition of the Districts, as opposed to the Capitol. In the final novel, the hints are smashed away with a sledgehammer's touch. The reality is presented as something stark, not merely to the viewers in Panem, but to the trilogy's readers too.
While I begrudged the clumsiness with which Collins treated her supporting cast, I did appreciate the realism. Not everyone could make it out of such situations alive and sane.
I also thought it right that a single teenage girl, no matter how symbolically important, would not be present at every major event. That would not have happened in the context of that world, nor did Collins force it to happen in her story.
Unfortunately, it did mean that, as readers seeing through Katniss's eyes, we did miss out on a great deal of the action too. If our eye-witness isn't there, then we don't get to witness it.