Oh wow, I'd say that's more than just a whiff. I was cringing through those quoted exchanges (the real ones). Maybe if the author wants to write a made-up version of a real event so everything can happen in the way that's best suited for the atmosphere and thematic resonance, he should change the names and call it a "short story based on real events"? I tend to expect "essays" to be factual as well as truthful.

(The worst part of it is, I feel like he's exploiting this teen's suicide for his "art." If the facts don't matter, why did he need an actual person to base it on?)
I agree with everything you say.

What's weird to me is that they have a book together. I think I would want to run the other way from that guy.